From Student Musicians to STEAM Tank: Workshop 2016
Singers and dancers. Student inventors and adult entrepreneurs. The New Jersey School Board Member of the Year, the state Teacher of the Year; and local board of education members from all 21 New Jersey counties.
More than 7,500 attendees packed the Atlantic City Convention Center for Workshop 2016 from Oct. 25-27, attending training sessions, Learning Labs, speeches, a Mock School Board Meeting and other programs – nearly 250 learning opportunities altogether.
Here are a few of the sights and sounds from the state’s largest training program for public educators:
Vocalist Wows Crowd Musician Amanda Gabriel, 17, a singer/songwriter and a senior at Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield (Union County), impressed the morning crowd at Workshop’s Exhibit Hall Theater on Tuesday by performing a series of ballads by Sara Bareilles, Amy Winehouse, and her own original work.
Teacher Ashley Bauers submitted a video of her playing, and the teen said she was shocked and thrilled to be selected one of Workshop’s six student performances.
“I’ve never performed in a place this big,” she said, looking out over the cavernous Workshop Exhibit Hall. “It was such an honor!”
STEAM Tank Debuts Throughout Workshop 2016, board members and vendors were not the only people on the Exhibit Floor. Walking among them, carting electric motors, miniature model houses, posters, placards, an entire school locker and other objects that looked like something from a science project, were the competitors in STEAM Tank.
Conducted in the iSTEAM Command Center, sponsored by the U.S. Army, the STEAM Tank pitted 17 student groups in a competition, modeled after TV’s “Shark Tank,” in which they demonstrated inventions and ideas in STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering the Arts and Math. A panel of judges watched and weighed in.
The students’ inventions included “Click-it,” a device used to help find lost items, from a team of Somers Point seventh graders; the Maximus Ocean Cleaner, which filters floating plastic waste out of the ocean, created by Atlantic County Vocational School District students; the “Dyslexia Destroyer,” an app that converts text to a format better for students with dyslexia, conceived by the Franklin Borough School District; and more than a dozen other ideas.
“They’re awesome. We so often hear talk about this new generation as a lost generation, but this shows what can really be done. Some of the ideas are just so exciting,” said Barry Lefkowitz, president of the firm MGR2, and one of the judges’ panel. Final results will be announced soon.
Award-Winning Educators Excellence in public education was on view at Workshop, through people such as Sheli Dansky and Argine Safari. Dansky, a long-time River Edge school board member, was selected New Jersey School Board Member of the Year. Safari, a Pascack Valley High School music teacher, was recently named New Jersey Teacher of the Year.
Both women were introduced in the Exhibit Hall Stage, and graciously accepted presentations for their work. Both also happen to do their work in Bergen County.
A Pause to Refresh Not every minute of Workshop 2016 could be packed with a learning experience. Attendees need a break. For that, the County Café filled the bill.
Located in the center of the Exhibit Floor, staffed by NJSBA personnel and stocked with cookies baked by New Jersey vocational schools – as well as plenty of coffee – the Computer Design & Integration (CDI) County Café saw a steady stream of visitors.
Among those pausing there on Wednesday were Washington Township, Gloucester County, board members Candice Zachowski and Robert Abbott. The two had had a busy Workshop: They presented a session; attended programs on leadership and facilities, plus the Legislative Update; and enjoyed student performances.
Zachowski said she enjoys coming to Workshop. “I have brought back many ideas we are using in our district,” she said. “You learn so much.”