West Morris Central Sustainability Engineers Receive STEM Award

By Colleen O’Brien

Eight West Morris Central High School Seniors are among those students putting their well-deserved $5,000 BASF STEM grant award to good use this semester. 

Said Frances Zegar, Technology Educator, “They and other students in Architecture, Design & Engineering, will be building 3-D models of the redesign of the Culinary Arts Classrooms.”

BASF – the awarder – is a chemical company with sites around the world. In November of 2019, the company awarded $100,000 total, or $5,000 each, to 20 participating schools. Bob Nelson, a leading spokesperson for BASF in North America said in the company’s news release that enhancing “education in a fun and imaginative way is important to the future of our industry.”

Besides the WMCHS Food Science Redesign Project, other New Jersey schools’ STEM topics include: Tracking Human Impact on Local Environment, Drones for the Science and Engineering Classrooms, Pollinator Pockets, and Robotic Farming with the FarmBot.  

The company stated that they chose the West Morris Central High School Food Science Redesign Project because, as the Architecture students described, they “will redesign the current food science classroom to increase productivity and storage space to enable bulk purchases to save money, heighten student accessibility and involvement, and include a video/live feed.  They will build a greenhouse with a hydroponic component to incorporate farm fresh food into their meals.”  

The future redesigned Culinary Arts Classrooms, will be technically state-of-the-art. The students working on the project had input from Eliza Feltimo, Culinary Arts Teacher, who also wants a video/live stream of her culinary preparations.

In addition to the classrooms, a Farm-to-Table Greenhouse also will be part of the redesign.

“As far as I know,” said Zegar, “the latter has never been offered in the West Morris High School District.”

The Farm-to-Table concept includes sustainable practices such as using renewable resources where possible, having diverse biological products and making use of water efficiently.

Americans have a long history with wanting Farm-to-Table availability. According to Jan Whitaker on her blog “Restaurant-ing Through History,” at WordPress.com, 19th-century Americans wanted their food fresh from “farmers and hunters.” In fact, one Detroit businessman put out an ad saying “Farmers, hunters and others with game of any kind will please call upon William Carson, Carson’s Dining Saloon.”

Today Culinary Arts is a bridge, say educators, between STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math).

Educators also point out that the simple act of popping corn is a lesson in thermal energy. And how that corn is made to pop, whether by conventional heat transfer or by solar, steam, or light sources, is another scientific inquiry.

Outside the Culinary Arts Classrooms, the Farm-to-Table Greenhouse will encourage healthy eating, yes. But it could also model to the surrounding West Morris community creative dishes that the students come up with themselves.

Adds Zegar, “With extensions and an additional room, as well as an additional teacher, WMC could double enrollment in the introductory level Culinary Arts class from 80 to 160. As well as doubling advanced enrollment from 20 to 40 in the first semester.” 

She concludes, “Over the course of the year, total enrollment could double from 200 students to 400 students.”

“Enrollment numbers show that students are eager to take these classes. And that we would be able to meet enrollment levels.”

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