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'First Of Its Kind' STEAM School Opens In Brooklyn Navy Yard

Patch logo Patch 2/13/2019 Anna Quinn
© Provided by Planck, LLC, d/b/a Patch Media

FORT GREENE, BROOKLYN — A new technical high school that began as a "wild idea" four years ago officially opened this week in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, offering students the opportunity to learn everything from computer science, culinary arts and construction in the space they might be hired when they graduate.

The Brooklyn STEAM Center — which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math — offers up to 300 juniors and seniors from eight local high schools the chance to spend half their school day in the hands-on 30,000-square-foot facility. It is the first school of its kind in the city and only the second to teach students inside an actual workplace.

For students like 11th-grader Bryana Bonner, it has meant getting out of the traditional classrooms in her Bedford Academy High School and learning everything from how to use power tools to getting the OSHA certification she needs to start visiting construction sites she may work at one day.

"When you're here you get to be treated as the young adult you are as well as meet people who see what you have to offer to their companies," said Bonner, who is in the construction technology pathway at the center.

The school's students come from two high schools in Bed-Stuy, one in Clinton Hill, two in Crown Heights, two in Downtown Brooklyn and one in Flatbush.

This past week was the first time the students, who had been working from two temporary locations, were able to use the new space at the Navy Yard, including its full professional kitchen, computer labs, soundstage and construction zone.

Bonner said it has been amazing to know they are the first ones to try out the school.

"We're paving the pathway for other kids to come here and fulfill their dreams," she said.

Including construction technology, students are offered five pathways at the school — computer science, design and engineering, culinary arts or film and media.

Students in all five pathways have already started meeting with businesses in and around the Navy Yard to fold into their lessons at the new center, the Navy Yard's Vice President of workforce development Katie Beck Sutler said on a tour Tuesday.

Culinary arts students got the chance to replicate recipes from nearby restaurants and film and media students made their own commercials based on a pitch from the Navy Yard's Picture Farm Productions.

The new center also includes space for ideas down the line like a construction technology project to build tiny houses, drone or robot races in the common area or pop-up restaurants run by culinary arts students, Sutler said.

The $17 million project, first envisioned by its principal Kayon Pryce, was the first partnership of its kind between the Navy Yard, city Department of Education and Brooklyn Borough President's Office, who invested $5 million in the idea.

Borough President Eric Adams said Tuesday that the school ensures Brooklyn's children aren't left behind as the borough continues its rapid growth. The school puts Brooklyn at the start of a "new education system in the city," forged by innovative educators like Pryce, he said.

"Let's get out of their way and give them what they need to move these children to the next generation," he said, noting that politicians should support ideas from those with education expertise.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said the school will ensure the city has a new generation of workers it needs to continue to build the city, which she said was recently named the number one city for technology in the country.

"How do we get the kids of New York City directly involved in all this excitement that's happening (at the Brooklyn Navy Yard)?" Glen said. "Let's be real — we have to train our kids for the jobs of the 21st century."

Photos show Jordan Gomes, Andy Morales and Diana Trinidad working in the construction studio, a student writing on the center's white board, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams speaking at the ribbon cutting and the school's kitchen and soundstage. By Anna Quinn/Patch.

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