Hands-on science experiments at UB together with in-classroom science lessons form the basis of the UB-National Grid-Westminster Community Charter School partnership.
UB and National Grid collaborate to bring scientists and engineers to Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Schools, Westminster Community Charter School (WCCS) and Highgate Heights Elementary (HH), once a month to guide students through structured, hands-on science experiments. UB faculty and staff utilize a combination of professional online teaching resources and qualitative feedback from BPN teachers to develop our 60-minute lessons.
Every January, all Westminster Community Charter School students and K-5th grade students from Highgate Heights have the opportunity to do hands-on science experiments with scientists and engineers in Davis Hall at UB. These field trips allow students to participate in a variety of science and engineering-themed activities with practical applications. Student favorites include hovercraft rides, building balloon-powered vehicles, making solar powered lanterns and testing wind turbine blades.
May of 2020 will mark the completion our first year working with kindergarten and first grade at Highgate Heights Elementary, in addition to operating the full K-5 curriculum at WCCS. The program began with kindergarten and first-grade classes at WCCS in January 2014. By Fall 2017 the program included all students in kindergarten through 5th grade. Our vision is to expand the program at Highgate to mirror our engagement with Westminster by the end of 2023. Future STEM Exploration Field Trips will also expand to include middle school level students from Highgate Heights.
In addition to visiting BPN schools during the school day, UB now participates in Saturday Academies held at both schools. Each Saturday has a different theme for the day, examples include: I’m Thankful, Power Up Buffalo, and Career Fair. This gives families to chance to interact with UB staff and students on short exploratory activities and learn about further opportunities outside the classroom, such as engineering summer camps and community engagement nights on campus.
Once a year, all Westminster Community Charter School students have the opportunity to do hands-on science experiments with scientists and engineers in Davis Hall at UB.
Studies have shown that the United States lags behind other countries in STEM education. UB and partners like National Grid are working to combat that pattern by hosting engineering camps, volunteering in public schools and implementing other initiatives.
National Grid’s sponsorship of this program is part of the company’s larger "Engineering Our Future" initiative, which provides funding support to address STEM needs. Like many technical businesses, National Grid faces a potential shortage of engineers to help design and run tomorrow’s energy networks.