North Adams Transcript
ADAMS -- Connecting the dots between real world jobs and the subjects of math and science was the focus in sixth grade classrooms at C.T. Plunkett Elementary School on Friday.
Students at the school were among the first in the county to receive a visit from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s DIGITS program, which aims to spark interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by bringing professionals into the classroom to talk about their careers.
"You can’t do many jobs today without science and math," Michael Wojtaszek, 12, said following a presentation by volunteer Will Bourdon, a systems engineer at General Dynamics in Pittsfield.
Bourdon, a graduate of Hoosac Valley, talked to students about the importance of education, especially the role of science and math classes.
"I took just one engineering class in high school and it changed my life," he said, noting how at one point he was close to failing out of school.
The class -- a course in basic electricity -- changed his direction and led him first to Berkshire Community College and then to the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"The program is aimed at getting information about STEM jobs to kids at an early age," Bourdon said. "The state wants to encourage a larger number of students to go into these fields."
Volunteers, like Bourdon, known as DIGITS Ambassadors, are a key part of the program, which was brought to the Berkshires by the Berkshire STEM Pipeline and the Berkshire Compact.
"The DIGITS program has been around for several years, but before now it hasn’t reached out to the Berkshire County," Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs at MCLA said Friday. "We have a representative from General Dynamics who is on our STEM Pipeline steering committee, so it was wonderful that we could tap into that connection and bring some wonderful volunteers into local classrooms."
She said the DIGITS program aligns perfectly with the goals of the pipeline and Berkshire Compact.
"It’s all about access," she said. "We want students to have the opportunity to connect and study how the science fields are applied in the real world. We want them to be inspired and learn about future career opportunities."
In April, volunteers will visit sixth graders in North Adams and Dalton schools as well.
"Studies and assessments have shown that sixth grade really is an appropriate target [group] to reach out to about the STEM fields," Joslin said. "Students in this grade are preparing to go into middle school and it’s important to get them to think about their educational paths and to encourage them to continue their interest in the science fields"