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July 25, 2013

Middle schoolers attend Go STEM Summer Institute

Staff Report
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Twenty-five fifth through ninth graders from schools around the three-county area recently participated in the Chenango – Delaware – Otsego (CDO) Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Leadership Council’s Go STEM Summer Institute.

The CDO STEM Leadership Council was formed in 2009 and includes more than 25 volunteer members from business, education (P-12, BOCES and post-secondary) and workforce development who are dedicated to identifying and expanding opportunities for area students to learn about and explore STEM-related careers in an effort to better the area’s economic future and quality of life.

This marked the third year of the Go STEM Institute and is the first year of the revised theme, How It Works. In previous years, the institute focused on the exploration of “green” topics. This year and in future years, the focus is on helping students apply the science, technology and math they learn during the academic year with everyday processes within the world around them.

According to a media release, the 2013 Go STEM Institute had students exploring the science/technology/math of food and learning the answers to questions such as what type of energy source is perfect for making cookies and why; what happens when you change the leavening agent in pizza dough and why; and how can milk be transformed into yogurt?

In addition to the middle school students, participants also included education majors from the State University College at Oneonta (pre-service teachers) and current (in-service) teachers who worked together to develop the learning activities for the week-long program. By including pre-service teachers, “the CDO STEM Leadership Council is achieving its objective to prepare future teachers to approach the teaching of science and math in interesting and engaging ways and assisting in-service teachers in developing curriculum to strengthen students’ understanding and experience with scientific inquiry,” Karen Rowe, director of curriculum and Instruction for Oneonta City Schools and co-chairwoman of the CDO STEM Leadership Council, said in the release.

According to Bill Pietraface, SUNY Oneonta Biology Professor (retired) and program coordinator of the Go STEM Institute, “The pre-service teachers and current teachers offered a fun-filled experience for the students in a relaxed setting that provided a perfect environment for learning about the science of food.”

The releases said the Institute also incorporated the expertise of area business leaders who lead demonstrations and hands-on activities in the making of some of the students’ favorite foods. Audrey Benkenstein, program services manager for CDO Workforce and the CDO STEM Leadership Council co-chairwoman said, “Students were given a unique opportunity to learn practical applications of their academic subjects from people who also taught them about valuable careers in the local area.”

Benkenstein said that the Go STEM Institute is made possible in large part by the generous support of business representatives on the council and community partners who donated funding, supplies and much needed time and energy.

“Without the support of Time Warner Cable – Connect A Million Minds, the Otsego County Industrial Development Agency, Corning Foundation, Unalam, ACCO Brands, Raymond Corporation, the Catskill Regional Teachers Center and SUNY Oneonta, the Institute would not exist,” she said in the release.

To find out more about the CDO STEM Leadership Council, visit their website at