Brooklyn STEAM Center’s Brooklyn STEAM Center is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: Juniors and seniors attending 8 high schools in Central Brooklyn. Majority are Black or Latinx and qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
Number of participants: Maximum enrollment is 300. The first 2 classes (1 junior class and 1 senior class) were smaller, but STEAM Center expects to enroll full classes of 150 students per year starting fall 2019.
Location: Brooklyn Navy Yard
Frequency/Duration: 5 sessions; half-days throughout junior and senior year
Eligibility Criteria: There’s no eligibility criteria beyond attending 1 of the 8 partner schools. Students must have a minimum number of credits that allows them time in their junior- and senior-year schedules to attend class at the STEAM Center while still meeting graduation requirements. Each partner school receives an equal seat allocation and determines which students to enroll in the Center.
Curriculum: Students can choose among 5 pathways, including computer science and information technology; construction technology; culinary arts and hospitality management; design and engineering; and film and media. Students may earn at least 1 industry credential (listed below). Collaboration, presentation skills and a variety of professional skills, from arriving on time to writing emails, are also emphasized. “Soft skills development is baked into the DNA of the school,” said David Ehrenberg, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Outcomes: Industry credentials including OSHA 30 (construction technology track), Autodesk and Solidworks (design and engineering track) , NOCTI Prep Cook and NYC Food Handler’s License (culinary track), Adobe Pro Premiere (Film track), and Microsoft’s Python, Networking, and Security certifications (CS/IT track).
Partnerships: The STEAM Center has an advisory council that is managed and convened by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. This includes over 50 institutions including Yard-based businesses like Russ and Daughters, Crye Precision, New Lab and others, as well as representatives of local education institutions including New York City College of Technology, Brooklyn College, and Pratt.
The STEAM Center has 8 partner high schools: George Westinghouse High School, Benjamin Banneker Academy, Bedford Academy, Science Skills Center High School, Boys and Girls High School, High School for Global Citizenship, Science Technology and Research Early College HS at Erasmus, Medgar Evers College Preparatory High School
Sources of funding: Mixed
What makes the program stand out? Too often, schools in the city’s most vulnerable communities have lacked “high quality CTE experiences that actually lead somewhere,” said Dr. Lester W. Young Jr., Regent at Large for the state Board of Regents, who played a critical role in developing the STEAM Center. “How do we ensure that students are getting career and technical education opportunities that will allow them to penetrate the middle class?” said Dr. Young. “It’s more than just college and career ready. It is saying how you want them to be fully engaged participants in the community.”
Driven by that idea, Young, along with Ehrenberg and principal Kayon Pryce, developed a new approach to career and technical education. The Brooklyn Navy Yard location gives students unique access to more than 400 tech and manufacturing companies, about 40 of which serve on an advisory council that consulted on the school’s design and equipment, soft skills emphasized in the curriculum, and credentials students graduate with. Because students are embedded in a professional environment, they can develop relationships with engineers and architects, for example, who give guest lectures, work on projects with students or lead workshops with real-world applications, according to Ehrenberg.
What do participants need to succeed? Students need for educators to make career and technical education a greater priority, via financial investment in cutting-edge equipment and teachers with industry-relevant knowledge. Otherwise, students won’t take CTE seriously, and neither will industry leaders who might employ them.
What does the organization need? Bringing the project to life required significant private sector financial investment, and its success will demand continued willingness on the part of DOE and private industry to collaborate in ways that they haven’t before. “Just saying, ‘Hey STEAM Center, here is a list of 40 companies we think you should talk to’ is not the model, and it’s not the model for success,” said Ehrenberg. A more integrated collaborative effort on the part of industry and education has to happen. “As an urbanist, if you’re not next to your partner, you don’t really have a partnership. Proximity matters. And to think that education is different than that is crazy,” Ehrenberg said.