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Thursday, June 5, 2014

In Englewood, groundbreaking hopes for future hometown scientists, engineers and techies


By Kim Lueddeke

ENGLEWOOD — The Dwight-Englewood School community held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday for a $20-million science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education building that members hope will better prepare students for the fast-changing world awaiting them.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics represent what is the fastest-growing segment of the job market not just in the United States, but also around the world,” said Dr. John Hajjar, president of the school’s board of trustees and the leading donor for the project. “Students who have the appropriate foundation in STEM education will be the ones prepared to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.”

The building, about 30,000 square feet in size, will be called the Hajjar STEM Center. It will be located north of Leggett Hall on the preschool-through-12th-grade school’s East Palisade Avenue campus. School officials expect students will begin attending classes there in the fall of 2015.

The majority of the funding for the project — $15 million — will come from donors, according to Liz Tausner, the school’s director of communications and publications. The remainder will come from a $5-million bank loan, she said.

The building is being designed with an eye toward fostering collaboration and interaction amongst students and faculty members. Instead of hallways, classrooms will open into a foyer, said Tausner, and students will be encouraged to mingle in the common areas. Physics lab tables will be movable, and the biochemistry labs will be equipped with Harkness tables — large oval tables where students sit with their teachers in an effort to promote learning through open discussion.

Integrating science, technology, engineering and mathematics is part of a larger trend throughout the nation, where there has been a growing focus in recent years on education of the so-called STEM subjects. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, workers in these fields play a “key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy.”

Furthermore, the commerce department has said that occupations in these fields have been projected to grow by 17 percent between 2008 and 2018, compared to 9.8 percent growth for non-STEM occupations, and STEM workers command higher wages than their non-STEM counterparts.

“It’s important to be competitive,” said Hajjar. With this new facility, he said, “Our kids will be placed in a much better position.”

Email: lueddeke@northjersey.com

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