Booker T. Washington High School Students Reach for the Stars

In one corner of the room, students are working on designing catapults. In another, they're running their robots through practice drills, while a different group is working on a wind tunnel.

This is how they manufacture engineers at Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami, it's all about hands-on learning in the engineering magnet program.

"They have the opportunity to build robots, to code, to play around with circuits, create wind tunnels, that kind of thing, so it's really putting those science practices they learn in physical science and chemistry and actually putting them into practice," explained Oriana Montaque, the science department chair.

The school also has a heaven-sent tool no other high school in the county has: a working planetarium. It provides a window on the cosmos for the students in the astronomy magnet program. Through a partnership with NASA, the kids take field trips to the Kennedy Space Center and NASA sends scientists to the school as guest lecturers.

"There's something about astronomy in terms of being able to walk outside and look up and to know what you're looking at, is a thrill that I see in their eyes, being able to identify the different planets and have a connection with the earth itself and the universe," said Natan Samuels, the planetarium director.

Booker T. is historic, the second-oldest high school in Miami, but with less than a thousand students, teachers are able to provide more one-on-one attention.

"We have very small class sizes which makes this a very special place in the sense that the teacher-student ratio really helps," said William Aristide, the school's principal.

The Tornadoes band can blow the roof off. Music is part of the mission to emphasize the arts here. The students in the fine arts course regularly win competitions, so there's obviously talent here and these days it's nurtured by a teacher who's also an architect.

"We have all the arts, musical theatre, whatever is necessary for kids to be successful, we try to expose them to it here at Booker T Washington," Aristide said.

Of course, that includes athletics. The school has had powerhouse football teams for years. Now they have the academic programs to match their success on the field.

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