Clark BOE Showcase’s Merit Scholar, CEF Grants, and STEAM Program

ALJ President Jennifer Feeley presented a certificate to National Merit Commended Scholar Emma Knutson. Credits: Kristen Busch
National Merit Commended Scholar Emma Knutson Credits: ALJ website
Clark Education Fund’s Donna Mulvihill and Bob Brede presented four grants to teachers throughout the district at the November Board of Education meeting. Credits: Kristen Busch
Hehnly Principal Shirley Bergin and teachers Teresa Gotti and Cindy Torello presented the new STEAM Program being used for K through 5. Credits: Kristen Busch
Students Nico Fiumefreddo and Bradyn Weber demonstrated their successful projects from the STEAM pilot program last spring. Credits: Kristen Busch

CLARK, NJ – The Clark Board of Education’s November meeting started off with success stories and presentations last Monday, highlighting the great work of students and teachers alike.

Arthur L. Johnson’s Emma Knutson was the first to be recognized for her academic success.  “We are here tonight to honor Emma Knutson for an outstanding performance in her PSAT National Merit Scholarship qualifying test in 2016,” said ALJ Principal Jennifer Feeley. “It is vital to the advancement of educational excellence and to our nation to recognize students just like Emma that will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them to continue to do so in the next level of the education.”

Knutson placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.6 million students who entered the 2018 competition by taking the 2016 PSAT National Merit Qualifying Test.  Superintendent Ed Grande called Knutson’s performance “beyond impressive.” 

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Knutson was also named ALJ Student of the Month for October and is the lead in ALJ’s upcoming play A Streetcar Called Desire.  Feeley said Knutson is “truly a well-rounded student.”

The Clark Education Fund’s Donna Mulvihill and Bob Brede presented four mini-grants to teachers throughout the district at the meeting.  The CEF is an independent, non-profit group that was established in 2003 to underwrite supplemental educational programs for Clark students through grants to educators. 

The grants went towards:

  • STEM Kit for Young Learners – Clark Preschool
    Submitted by Megan Consiglio and Valeria Lamanna
  • America’s Battle of the Books reading incentive program – Carl H. Kumpf Middle School
    Submitted by Victoria Sasso, Michelle Greenspan, Victoria Haynes, Ann Mahoney, and Nicole Viola
  • Ozobot Classroom Kits – Valley Road and Frank K. Hehnly Elementary Schools
    Submitted by Nicole Czarnecki and Teresa Gotti
  • Museum of Early Trades & Crafts “Tradesmen and Community” hands-on museum – Frank K. Hehnly Elementary School
    Submitted by Jacqueline Caplette, AnnMaria Chironna, and Linda Hayes

“It is important to us to acknowledge the teachers who go above and beyond,” said Mulvihill.  “They are looking for innovative [programs] and that’s really what our organization tries to support.”

Hehnly Principal Shirley Bergin and teachers Teresa Gotti and Cindy Torello presented the new STEAM Program being used in both elementary schools for kindergarteners up through 5th graders.

Bergin explained that Gotti and Torello “were on board right away… they took the initiative and together the three of us went out and visited some workshops and schools.”

Torello explained that “STEAM is an educational movement that focuses on teaching science, technology, engineering, the arts in regard to humanities, and mathematics in an integrative matter.”

For the pilot program last year, students were taken through the engineering design process said Gotti.  Students were asked not only to find solutions to problems posed to them, but they also planned and designed the solution.  Solutions were then tested.  “The best part … was once they tested, they were able to figure out what they wanted to do to improve on their designs,” said Gotti.

Each grade had a different focus.  Second graders learned about coding through “unplugged” lessons and then went to the computer lab to practice what they learned.  They were tasked with designing a story where someone or something would vanish.  Third grader Nico Fiumefreddo successfully demonstrated the story he created, planned, and designed last spring.

Third graders were asked to create an eraser catapult.  Fourth grader Bradyn Weber walked the audience through the project she created last spring, demonstrating her successful catapult.

Other grades used literature as their jumping off point, creating trees that held up letters for “Chica Chica Boom Boom”, designing a house of index cards to protect the “Three Little Pigs” from the big bad wolf, and created a parachute to help Jack down from the bean stalk.

For this school year, Torello explained that they revamped the program and developed the curriculum to align with the standards used in the science programs.

“Thank you to the Board of Education for supporting us in our initiative and making it into such a great program,” said Gotti.

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