Milton Hershey School’s STEAM Curriculum Impacts Community at Large
By Jesse Yonkovich, MHS AEE Academic Coordinator
Milton Hershey School is an education leader, preparing students with life skills to be successful after graduation. At MHS, our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum anchors our student’s education beginning in elementary school.
MHS students of all ages participate in creative projects, problem solving activities, social and emotional learning, and real-world experiments that make a difference in our communities.
In honor of National STEAM Day, here are a few projects currently happening on campus that highlight our STEAM hands-on learning approach.
Riparian Buffer and Penn State University Research
For the past three years, MHS has participated in the Keystone 10 Million Trees Partnership to improve Pennsylvania’s communities, economy, and ecology by planting 10 million tress in the Commonwealth. At MHS, fourth and fifth graders have planted almost 700 trees each year along the streams on campus to create a riparian buffer that helps stabilize stream banks and reduce pollution from run-off.
Recently, MHS has taken this project a step further by partnering with Penn State University and Penn State Extension to install a research riparian buffer on campus. In March of 2021, three sections along Spring Creek were planted with different types of vegetation, including meadow grasses, native forest, and native fruit trees to study the impact different types of vegetation have to reduce pollutant run-off from agriculture fields.
To begin to collect initial data, three Stroud Mayfly data loggers have been placed along other parts of the stream. These programmed water probes collect chemical and physical data every five minutes and hopefully, will start to show stream quality improvements as the vegetation grows and matures. While this is very valuable to Penn State researchers, MHS students and Agricultural and Environmental Education (AEE) interns also will have the opportunity to analyze this data and present workups to watershed groups and classes.
Student-Grown Hydroponic Produce
Agriculture has been a part of the MHS legacy since its founders, Milton and Catherine Hershey, signed the Deed of Trust in 1909. Today, this legacy continues through the AEE program, which offers students hands-on work experience with animals, crops, and hydroponically-grown produce on campus grounds.
Over the past three years, MHS students built an indoor hydroponic system to grow microgreens, basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries. They now sell their produce at a student-run farmer’s market, Project Market, and to The Hotel Hershey.
Drone Construction Project
MHS students are documenting history by learning how to fly a drone and produce videos with the footage gathered from construction projects happening on campus. In September, AEE partnered with the construction team at MHS to collect weekly shots of different sites, including the first Early Childhood Resource Center for Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning (CHS) in Hershey, Pa.
This drone project is focused on using drones in the context of agriculture and natural resource management but is also creating opportunities for STEAM projects and career-focused education. MHS student Damien Lambert has been one of the first student pilots in the program. He has been able to effectively monitor construction progress of CHS by programming a drone to fly the same route each time and collect video and pictures at specific locations.
Later this fall, AEE will be partnering with a technology class to complete a unit on drone technology that will hopefully lead to more student certifications in recreational flying with the option to achieve a drone pilot license.
National STEAM Day was created to bring awareness to the importance of STEAM and encourage students to explore their interests in engaging ways. Here at MHS, students participate in the CTE program explore careers that interest them. Students graduate with industry-recognized certifications and real-life experiences such as internships, co-ops, and pre-apprenticeships.