A new after-school program will be open to Northeast K-5 students this fall

Elementary students in the Northeast will raise and release trout and sample foods they have grown from seed as part of a new after-school program starting this fall.

Mercyhurst University’s Department of Education will offer the STEM & Vine program to introduce K-5 students to science, technology, engineering, and math ― as well as computer science ― with regard to agriculture in the Northeast.

“STEM initiatives need to be grounded in the context of the community to engage students in the science used in their own backyards, and then grow from there,” said the chair of the education department. of Mercyhurst, Amy Burniston, biologist and resident of the Northeast. “This program will be rich in STEM applications related to the Northeast agriculture industry.”

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The Northeast is part of the oldest and largest Concord wine region in the world, along the southern shore of Lake Erie. It is also famous for rainbow trout fishing in the tributaries of the lake.

Besides food and fish farming, STEM & Vine activities will include soil analysis, grape DNA extraction to learn more about the local grape lineage, and learning about coding and robotics used in grape pickers and other modern agricultural equipment.

Separate programs will be for students in kindergarten to grade two and grades three to five. Bus transportation will be provided for participating students.

More information about the free STEM & Vine program, including registration details, will be provided via social media and the Northeast School District’s parent notification system.

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The STEM & Vine program is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to Mercyhurst University.

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The grant will also provide summer and fall STEM programs open to the Northeast community. The first, Aug. 6 at Gibson Park, will include science activities and demonstrations, large equipment displays and yoga for kids, as well as live music.

Other community events will focus on fishing, bird watching and native plants. There will also be tours of vineyards, farms and labs and a farm-to-table potluck.

Community, county, and state organizations will partner with Mercyhurst to provide activities, demonstrations, tours, and other resources for STEM & Vine students. Partner organizations include the North East Community Foundation, Erie County Horticultural Society, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Penn State Behrend’s Lake Erie Grape Research & Extension Center, Erie Insurance, Erie County Conservation District, North East Arts Council, the McCord Memorial Library and the North East in bloom.

STEM & Vine will be the third educational program offered by Mercyhurst University in local elementary schools.

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Carpe Diem Academy, launched in 2010, offers after-school enrichment programs in literacy, math, art, and science for K-2 students in the Erie School District. Nearly 190 students participated this school year.

The Mercyhurst Early Learning Innovation Academy, launched in the Northwestern School District in 2019, offers preschool learning as well as after-school and weekend enrichment programs for students in kindergarten through 2nd grade. In 2021-22, 139 students participated.

Multi-year funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the Erie, Northwest, and Northeast programs so far totals $5.5 million.

Contact Valerie Myers at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.

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