It’s known as a STEM school, with an emphasis on science, so why did principal Sabine Phillips start a chorus program this year at Crystal Lake Middle School in Pompano Beach?
"I think that our kids need that in their lives, especially in middle school," Phillips said. "If they’re excited about one of their arts classes, then that keeps them motivated to come to school."
Arts are important even at a science magnet school. Crystal Lake has long had an engineering program and new for this year, they’ve added environmental science to the menu.
"They do a lot of project-based learning, which means they learn the curriculum then they perform experiments and create projects based on what they’re learned," Phillips said.
The idea is to get students to think deeply and critically about problems.
"The kids love it, you hear them talking about that stuff all the time," said STEM Coordinator Josh Weber. "They’re actually like, 'are we still working on this?' or they’re rushing to class saying 'I want to get on the computers, I want to do the 3-D printer today' or 'I want to be the one on the flight simulators.'"
The students in the Civil Air Patrol elective learn all about aerospace engineering, including how to design aircraft. They even fly airplanes as part of the class.
"They actually get to fly real planes, the pilot will take off and land but once they’re up in the air, the children get to do the flying,” said Traci Cohen, who teaches the CAP class.
Crystal Lake is the only middle school in Florida that offers students this class, sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol.
"It opens up a whole slew of doors for them and opportunities that they would not normally have,” explained Cohen, who says some of her students are inspired to pursue aviation careers.
The school also has an International Affairs and Business magnet program, which emphasizes foreign languages. Students can choose from French, Spanish, or Chinese. The kids in the Chinese class are actually going to China later this year. That’s one incredible field trip!
The engineering kids will be going on field trips closer to home, as the school is partnering with local firms to give students exposure to engineering careers.