SPARTA, NJ – The girls of Girl Scout Troop 990 and 741 worked to encourage interest in the STEM Academy at Sparta High School.  Six girls decided on the project as the final part of the three-part prerequisite “Journey” required to be able to move on to their Gold Award Projects, the highest rank in Girl Scouting.

For the “Take Action” final part of the Journey, they began by interviewing Biomedical STEM teacher Sarah Pisano and Engineering STEM teacher Lisa Tafuri.

Hailey O’Connor a student at Pope John, Lexi Piacentino a student at Sussex Technical School and Julia Muth, Coralyn Kurz, Julieanna Green and Samantha Patino students at Sparta High School, worked together to create the program that they presented to all eighth grade Sparta Middle School science classes. 

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They presented in small groups or on their own.  The girls said the immediate reaction of the eighth grade students varied from “very interested” to “blank stares” and others that seemed “too shy to ask question.” 

“Some asked specific questions about the application process,” Kurz said.  “They even asked about the type of questions on the [placement] test.”

The teachers reportedly considered the project a success.  “I think the teachers felt it made an impact,” Green said.  “They said it was helpful for the students.”

“The high school science teachers felt it was good and hoped they would do it again,” Troop leader Gina Muth said. 

Working independently, “it was the first project we did together,” O’Connor said.  “We definitely put a lot of time into it.”

“And it paid off,” Green added.

“I had fun with it,” Piacentino said.

“It was a bonding experience for us before moving onto our Gold projects,” Green said.

Piacentino gave credit to Science Supervisor Marisa Wilson for helping with the logistics of making the project a reality.  “She was a huge help” they said, in coordinating between the schools, getting the dates set, talking with the teachers, even getting the passes necessary for the student not be counted absent from school. 

With this project completed the girls now look ahead to their Gold projects.  O’Connor anticipates he project will be related to sports safety, concussions, safety equipment.  She is a softball and tennis player.

Green intends to start a Russian club because it is one of the only world languages taught at Sparta High School without its own club.

Muth is hoping to be able to create a walking path between the high school and middle school “because there are a number of students who have to get their younger siblings from middle school and for the middle school track team to be able to get to the track more easily.” 

Patino will likely do a project related to animals.

Kurz and Piacentino are not yet certain of their projects.

One thing was certain.  All said they would “do it again.”

"These young ladies did a fantastic job communicating the importance of STEM education for all students,” Wilson said. “I am grateful for the time and effort they put into this presentation for the eighth grade students, and I would like to thank the troop leaders for their support as well."

September 2016 marked the second year students were able to be a part of STEM Academy at Sparta High School. Last year, the first class of students started in the Biomedical strand.  This year a second course of study was offered to include Engineering and Design.  Next year the program will expand to include Computer Programming.  Project Lead the Way is the curriculum used by the STEM teachers.

Students are able to apply prior to entering high school as a freshman.   Students outside of Sparta are able to apply to join this program or the general education program as a tuition student, much like a private school applicant.  STEM academy students take many of their classes with the other students in their grades, coming together for the advanced academy classes.