PATERSON, NJ- Bringing clean and filtered water to Paterson’s downtown, creating a light rail system that can move people around the city and beyond, and installing solar energy powered charging stations at bus stops were a few of the ideas proposed at a recent gathering at the Paterson Art Factory.

While all presented with research to back them up and in ways befitting of leading experts, these proposals were brought forward by local students entering grades six through nine at the closing ceremony of the Great Falls Summer STEAM Program on August 2.

The four-week camp was offered as summer enrichment program and is a partnership between the Paterson Public Schools and the Paterson Education Fund. Designed to provide students with hands-on, skilled-based learning opportunities, the program, according to organizers, enhances the student’s in-school STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) education and “builds their capacity to address local issues through collaboration and and creative problem solving.”

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Calling it an “open and freeing environment” for learning, Sara Sterling-Laldee, Supervisor of Science for Paterson Public Schools, said that the summer program “creates space for innovation.” Because neither the teacher nor the students are hampered by the narrow set of criteria that often becomes the focus of traditional classroom teaching to accommodate standardized tests and professional evaluations, the 14-year teaching professional continued, “outside the box and wild ideas are allowed to flow.”

Focusing this year on how to use the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to “envision and design” improvement to the community, students conducted field research, launched several social media campaigns, designed apps, and developed several infrastructure solutions to complex problems. These SDGs, according to the UN’s website, were adopted by world leaders in 2015 and were developed to mobilize countries to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

Asked about his decision to make the space available for the closing ceremony David Garsia, whose company Great Falls Industrial Park, Inc., owns and manages the site said they simply want to be "good neighbors."

"We want this to be a community hub," he said of the five-acre site that contains 21 buildings and 280,000 square feet of art studios and production space. 

“This program gets kids excited about learning,” Rosie Grant, Executive Director, Paterson Education Fund, told TAPinto Paterson. “Summer STEAM is effective because it integrates so many genres and gives the students a new set of advanced skills.”

Saying that both the educators and students will take these new lessons and skills back to their classrooms in the fall, Grant continued, “it just shows that when our kids get the right resources and stimulation they soar!”