Brick Schools STEM Program Growing

Brick Memorial STEM teacher for biology Jacqueline Castellano with science advisor Walter Hrycenko are showing off a visual created for the paper recycling project by Brick Memorial High School Sudents Michael Ciocco, Connor Trautweiler, Nicholas Gillen, Ryan McCombs and Gavin Young. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – Every school in town has a Green Team which reinforces a sustainability message and develops programs that encourage recycling and reducing the waste of natural resources.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academies at Brick High School and Brick Memorial High School are helping the Green Teams in their schools to earn a Bronze certification from Sustainable Jersey for Schools, which is a non-profit organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward schools as they pursue sustainability programs.

Herbertsville Elementary School Principal Walter Hrycenko is the district STEM coordinator for science, and he said that in the 2016-2017 school year – the first year of the STEM academy – students undertook a recycling project where they collected paper in the high schools, weighed the results and calculated the number of trees they saved from the paper, which would be recycled.

“Brick High School collected 10,000 pounds of paper, and Brick Memorial collected about half that because they got a late start,” Hrycenko said from Brick Memorial High School.

The STEM students estimated that the 10,000 pounds of paper represent about 120 trees, he said. In June, the students presented their findings at a Board of Education meeting.

At a STEM camp over the summer, the township’s recycling coordinator Trish Totaro came and spoke to the students, and they took a field trip to the county single-stream recycling center, where the students got to see how the paper is recycled, he said.

“We’re working on getting the Bronze certification for the high schools, and the STEM kids are contributing to that effort,” he said.

Schools can earn points for the certification in areas of energy efficiency, green cleaning, green purchasing, school grounds, schools culture and climate, and much more.

Brick Memorial STEM teacher for biology Jacqueline Castellano with science advisor Walter Hrycenko are showing off a visual created for a science project by students John Troncone, Jimmy Goodman, Cynthia Lin and Marla Forfar. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

In 2016, Lake Riviera Middle School was the first in the district to earn the Bronze award; that same year Brick Memorial High School received a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Small Grant to support a fitness program for students and staff.

In 2017, Lanes Mill Elementary School was the second district school to earn the Bronze award.

The 2016-2017 school year was the first year of the STEM program, Hrycenko said. Those students are now STEM sophomores, and they are looking into hydroponics (the process of growing plants without soil) and aquaponics (a combination of raising fish and plants together in water in one integrated system), which would add points to the Sustainable Jersey for Schools.

Hrycenko said that in the future, “upcycling” would be introduced to the STEM students who would come up with ideas on how to create art or something usable from items that would otherwise be disposed of.

This school year, STEM students would once again participate in the TSA (Technology Student Association) competition, held at The College of New Jersey and devoted exclusively to the needs of STEM students.

The competition challenges STEM students to work collaboratively, and apply their math and science knowledge in practical and creative ways, to solve everyday engineering problems.

Some of the actions are related to the school’s sustainability program, Hrycenko said.

Brick High School has 18 STEM freshmen and 12 sophomores, while Brick Memorial High School has 23 STEM freshmen and 19 sophomores, Hrycenko said.

Chris Thompson is the STEM math supervisor for the district, and there are six STEM teachers at the freshman level in each school and three STEM teachers at the sophomore level. The STEM teachers also teach other classes, Hrycenko said.