The Southington Education Foundation is committed to bringing increased
awareness and recognition to the importance of STEM-based experiential
learning within our school district.
Integrating the disciplines of
Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics into cross-curriculum studies is essential for
our 21st century students.
The SEF seeks to support and enhance such
programming already underway in and outside of our classrooms with the
Virtual STEM University (VSU) is a unique, web-based educational resource for teachers
that offers easy access to innovative lesson design plans for the classroom. The
uploaded lesson design plans foster greater aptitude in and commitment to STEM
education in Southington’s K-12 classrooms.
Moreover, the VSU strengthens the move towards digital and global
citizenship for all of the district’s students as technology lends itself to a
more thorough understanding of complex concepts and our 21st century world.
The VSU establishes Southington as a national model for STEM
resources and education. Educators will have the ability to share ideas with one
another and collaborate both within their schools and across the district.
The Southington Education Foundation created the VSU in
conjunction with the Southington Public School District.
Southington Education Foundation Announces Virtual STEM University
May 28, 2014
Nearly twenty Southington Public School educators assembled to discuss
innovative lesson designs submitted for a Virtual STEM University website.
Throughout the present school year teachers developed lessons and units for this
online resource initiated and funded by the Southington Education Foundation
through a $13,000 grant.
Back Row, L-R: John Duffy (SPS Science Coordinator), Kim Kalat, Amy
Capobianco, Mandy Hubeny, Jennifer Valentine, Rebecca Richards, Charity Baker,
Christina McKirryher, Regina, Albee, and Dale Riedinger (SPS Math Coordinator).
Front Row, L-R: Beth Hosmer, Teresa Brooks, Toni-Ann Rock, Gina Krar,
Jennifer Irazabal, Erin Nattrass, and Sarah Cavanaugh. Missing from photo:
Heather Bacchus and Betty Brown. (click for a larger image)
The VSU website is scheduled to be officially launched next fall and will
provide an environment where teachers can share creative, experiential
activities that encompass all grade levels. The SEF grant requires that teacher
lessons have at least two or more STEM components…science, technology,
engineering and/or mathematics. John Duffy, Science Coordinator for the
Southington Public School system explained that all lessons are aligned with
Southington curriculum and Common Core standards.
A PowerPoint presentation showcased two teams’ lessons. Sara Cavanaugh and
Jennifer Irazabal provided the details of Force and Motion via Dam Creation.
Students used technology, engaged in experiments and made predictions. The
students’ final performance task, or measure of their knowledge, required that
they create an effective dam.
Betty Brown, a fifth grade teacher explained the Light and Mirrors project.
This activity requires through a trial and error method students place mirrors
in a box in an attempt to refract light. Brown explained that the activity
allowed students to work at their own pace and through discovery come to a valid
conclusion. Duffy pointed out that the VSU STEM lessons provide for
differentiation among student abilities, making for very good instructional
John Duffy, Southington Public Schools Science Coordinator
All VSU lessons were created by and for teachers and will be easily accessed
by grade level and topic. Lessons will also provide teachers information
regarding needed materials, the number of days of instruction, possible teacher
questions as well as appropriate student responses. At present there are nine
lesson plans soon to be easily accessed through the district website,
www.southingtonschools.org. Duffy hopes that as lessons are added an additional
website may be required.
The unveiling of this one-of-a-kind web-based instructional environment also
provided an opportunity to acknowledge the educators who worked under the
guidance of John Duffy and Dale Riedinger, district math coordinator. Jan
Galati, chairman of the SEF shared her pride and excitement for the teachers’
collective accomplishments. Teachers left the event excited about the varied
lessons and the opportunity to begin accessing this resource during the 2014-15
Here are the names of teachers and their projects:
One of the most sweeping projects to date is the annual fourth-grade STEM
Initiative implemented by the SEF during the 2011-2012 school year. In
conjunction with the YMCA’s Camp Sloper, the SEF partnered with the school
district to provide a hands-on, project-based learning initiative that fosters
instruction in the STEM fields. To date, the SEF has committed $25,000 to this
Fourth graders from across the district travel to Camp Sloper twice during the academic
year for a day of innovative learning. Students collect pond specimens and
perform on-site experiments thanks to the many natural resources that are
abundant at Camp Sloper.
Camp Sloper Nature Center
In March, 2014, the Southington Education Foundation provided $20,000 towards
construction of the YMCA Camp Sloper Nature Center.
The 750 square-foot building, previously a pavilion, was enclosed for
year-round use. Additionally, the Nature Center building has the potential for
expanding the Science at Sloper initiative.
Currently, all fourth graders are bused to this site in the fall and spring; in
the future students may be able to participate in winter enrichment activities.
The Nature Center officially opened June 12, 2014 during a ribbon cutting
Read the following news stories about the opening:
A new STEM Recognition Program reaches into the classroom to encourage
projects and extracurricular activities already in progress. Our first
recognition gift was to the Southington Cyber Knights, the SHS Robotics Team.
Also known as the First 195 Team, the award-winning group was presented with a
$1,500 check on June 13, 2013, to further its mission during the 2013-2014
Central Connecticut State University Partnership
The SEF is proud to announce their most recent STEM project--- a Partnership
between the Southington Public Schools (SPS) and Central Connecticut State
University (CCSU) School of Engineering and Technology. Launched this past fall
the project will enhance educational opportunities available to students by
developing a greater understanding of STEM and its significance within the
global marketplace. This partnership will advance both teaching and learning by
providing students with activities and outreach programs that will allow
students to access CCSU’s STEM resources.
Genesis of CCSU/SPS Partnership Dr. David Monti, SEF STEM chairperson brought together CCSU Dean Faris
Mahals and Associate Dean James Mulrooney with Southington Public Schools
educators, Assistant Superintendent Steve Madancy, Science Coordinator John
Duffy, and Southington High Technology and Engineering Department Chairperson
Justin Mirante. After hearing the opportunities available at CCSU, the
collaborative drafted a plan and the assistant superintendent applied for
funding from the Southington Education Foundation.
Career Exploration in Technology and Engineering “One big takeaway from the meeting with the university deans was that
students and parents are not aware of the enormous opportunities within the STEM
sector. The clear majority of careers exist within the applied physical
sciences, of which engineering and engineering technology are a part of,” stated
Mirante. Through the CCSU/SPS Partnership students will have the opportunity to
become more aware of potential career choices in STEM fields and the
prerequisite course choices required to successfully prepare for post-high
school STEM education. However, an awareness of STEM opportunities is only the
Preparation is Key
Mirante pointed out that “during our discussion with the CCSU deans, it became
apparent that many students entering college engineering programs are not
sufficiently prepared for the rigorous coursework they will encounter within
engineering. Unfortunately, many students not only lack the prerequisite math
and science skills but also have a very challenging time making connections to
the engineering concepts related to how products are designed, fabricated, and
tested.” The CCSU/SPS collaborative determined that it was important that this
preparation begin prior to high school.
Thus, it was determined that an annual expo at the middle schools would be held.
During lunch waves students in grades 7 and 8 will have the chance to speak with
college students and professors from CCSU who will informally discuss career
opportunities and education requirements. This student experience is expected
not only to generate interest in technology and engineering education but also
to further expose students to the multiple facets of STEM.
Educators Expand Knowledge
The CCSU/SPS Partnership will broaden Southington educators’ knowledge in STEM
content areas. Math teachers, science teachers, technology and engineering
teachers, and school counselors at the middle schools and high school will take
a “Get on the Bus” STEM related faculty trip to CCSU during an early release
professional development day. Through engagement in meaningful, hands-on
experiences with technologies and equipment not otherwise available at
Southington High School, educators will be able to bring new knowledge to their
During the 2016-2017 school year, approximately 300 Southington High School (SHS)
students enrolled in technology and engineering education classes will tour the
CCSU lab facilities in CCSU’s School of Engineering and Technology.
Additionally, 120 SHS Project Lead the Way (PLTW) students will take part in an
interactive lab experience, including hands-on activities at CCSU. According to
Mirante, PLTW is a nationally recognized engineering program aimed towards
inspiring students to pursue careers in engineering and engineering technology.
Southington High’s PLTW program consists of five sequenced courses designed to
prepare highly motivated students to enter a four-year engineering college or
engineering technology career after high school.
Mirante stated, “Southington High has perhaps one of the best Technology and
Engineering programs in the state. The program and facility are like no other in
that it offers students with varying interests a range of experiences relating
to construction, communication, engineering, transportation, and manufacturing
technologies to gain crucial life skills as well as explore potential college
and career paths. It is my mission to do everything possible to help students
realize the countless career opportunities available to them within STEM fields
as well as how the world around them is designed to function.”
Partnership to Expand
The future expansion of the CCSU/SPS partnership can be translated to exciting
opportunities. CCSU has agreed to assist in developing a network of college
graduates who will share their career experiences at Southington Schools Career
Days and at guest speaker presentations. Mandancy related that Southington
teachers will receive continued professional development at CCSU in STEM areas
and labs. Additionally, the Southington High School Technology and Engineering
Department will hold an Open House to market, educate, and showcase courses to
help students prepare for a variety of STEM careers. Finally, public
communications will be developed to accurately inform the public of STEM
opportunities and requirements and to perhaps change previous misconceptions.
STEM in Central Connecticut
The CCSU/ SPS partnership also provides the university opportunity to inform and
educate Southington’s residents about the excellent educational STEM programs
and facilities located in our neighboring community at its School of Engineering
and Technology. Madancy stated, “Southington students are fortunate to have the
opportunity to be exposed to, and learn about, all that Central Connecticut
State University has to offer in the fields of engineering and manufacturing.
Our hope is that by providing these extension opportunities to our students, we
can open their eyes to the career potential that exists right in the state of
Connecticut. We are grateful to the Southington Education Foundation for their
continued support of STEAM opportunities for our students.” The Southington
Education Foundation envisions this partnership as an expansive, innovative
program that will affect students, educators, parents, and residents of the