The start of the 2017-2018 school year in Wauwatosa included the launch of a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program at Underwood Elementary School.
The program, approved by the Wauwatosa School Board in the 2016-2017 school year, is modeled after the successful curriculum of Wauwatosa STEM, the District’s first charter STEM school.
This year, 69 students from across Wauwatosa were chosen through a lottery process to participate in USTEM. The program has three sections with students in Senior Kindergarten through fifth grade.
Dr. Joe Bovi and Mrs. Amy Bovi are among the families that transitioned to USTEM this year with their son Jonah, who is in the third grade. Below is a Q & A with the Bovi’s about why they chose to apply for the USTEM program, what they most look forward to Jonah experiencing and learning, and their advice to parents who may be unfamiliar with STEM curriculum.
1) As parents, what about the new STEM program at Underwood attracted you and why did you ultimately decide to apply to have your child in the program?
Joe: Having attended the school board meeting where Underwood’s STEM concept was presented I could tell there was much thought and planning that went into the decision to open another program in the district. That really impressed me. I knew immediately this was going to be a well-run and supported program and was excited to have Jonah be selected for this incoming class. Jonah has always shown an affinity towards the sciences and so this seemed like a natural fit.
Amy: We found the integration of science, technology, math, and engineering into the Underwood learning experience (that we already loved) to be most attractive for Jonah. We ultimately decided to enroll because we wanted Jonah to have the opportunity to learn in different ways and expose him to as many problem-solving approaches as possible.
2) As a parent, what does it mean to you to have the choice and options within the District related to the education your child/ren receive?
Joe: That is one of the reasons why I love the Wauwatosa School District. Education is not a ‘one size fits all’ enterprise. It is very thoughtful for the school district to incorporate different educational concepts like Montessori and STEM. It strengthens the district, attracts and retains better teachers, and allows for better diversity in the schools by allowing families from different neighborhoods the opportunity to attend these programs.
Amy: Choice in your child’s education is reassuring for parents. To know that we can customize, to an extent, our children’s classroom experience is one of the many strengths of the Wauwatosa School District. Offering diverse approaches to learning is a reflection of the District’s, and Underwood’s in particular, commitment to students and their families.
3) What most excites you about the opportunity through USTEM?
Joe: Jonah would have a wonderful educational experience regardless of his involvement in the USTEM program. However, having heard about some of the lesson plans and seeing the excitement that the first group of USTEM teachers are bringing to the program, I am thrilled that he will be a part of this experience.
Amy: I look forward to the hands on activities and experiences in the outdoor lab. Most of all, I am eager for Jonah to benefit from the collaborations between USTEM and Underwood teachers, who have meant a great deal to Jonah.
4) In your opinion, why is the expansion of STEM programs and curriculum important?
Joe: An emphasis on science and technology in education stresses critical thinking, problem solving, and imagination skills that are vital for children as they progress through school or in trade. That the district recognizes this and provides these programs is very forward thinking. It’s great for our community.
Amy: STEM programs indicate the Wauwatosa School District is committed to the future of its students. The skills attained in STEM programs will shape and inform how students approach the world.
5) What is Jonah most excited about for his new school year? Is Jonah transitioning from a more traditional school day?
Joe: Jonah will be transitioning from a traditional school day to the USTEM program for third grade. He loves problem solving challenges. That these will be incorporated into his daily curriculum has him really looking forward to this year. He also is really excited that a couple of his baseball teammates from McKinley will be in his class this year at Underwood!
Amy: Jonah is most excited about his new classroom and the outside “classroom.” He will be transitioning from a traditional school day.
6) Anything else you'd want parents to know about STEM programs if they may not be familiar?
Joe: I encourage people who aren’t familiar to seek out opportunities to learn about it. It might be a good fit for your child. But also understand that even if you’re not involved in the program your child will receive a great education. We think very highly of Underwood and all of its teachers. It’s exciting that three new STEM teachers and new families are joining that community. It is a win for everyone.
Amy: If families are curious about the USTEM experience at Underwood, feel free to ask Jonah! He is very proud that Underwood was selected as the site for the STEM program and looks forward to meeting the new teachers.