During one of the hottest days of the week, Winslow Township Middle School began creating something beautiful. As winners of the Bernzomatic ‘Find Your Fire’ Program, the school received $15,000 and the chance to build their very own outdoor classroom and indoor makerspace with the help of HGTV Star, Nicole Curtis!

Winslow Township Middle School is a part of forward-thinking education as they offer STEM and Environmental STEM classes to 7th and 8th grade students. Through these programs, students have gotten the chance to learn about robotics and how to use modern science to create awesome things, like a self-watering water bottle!

Mr. Cruz, the creator of the Environmental STEM Program at the middle school, said, “There was a STEM program that was initiated three years ago and it was received really well. The district then decided to offer another program that was relative to the jobs and careers that are being offered now, so that the kids are college ready.”

Mr. Cruz has been seriously dedicated to making the STEM program at his school successful. He applied for the Bernzomatic program with the help of fellow staff and students. Once his school made it into the Top 10, Mr. Cruz spent the entire month of December doing nothing but promoting the school's project.

“We were behind at the beginning but we slowly just kept creeping up. The Winslow community came together. I’ve been here for 18 years, and I’ve never seen the community get behind something like this. We needed this and we came together for it,” he said.

Jamie, a 7th grade student, said, "I learned through being in STEM that I want to be an engineer." Alongside Jamie, another 7th grade STEM student, named Pramila, wants to help stop pollution as she reaches towards her goal of becoming an engineer. These students' new career dreams are all thanks to the STEM program at their school.

Regarding his students and STEM, Mr. Cruz said, “They believe in it and I did it because I believe in them, and I appreciate them. That’s what it’s about.”

Just like Mr. Cruz, HGTV’s Nicole Curtis believes in the Winslow Township Middle School’s STEM program success. “I think that this is going to get kids really excited. Kids want to be outside. Teachers want to be outside,” Curtis said. “I think that that is going to make a big difference in this program here.”

Curtis helped teach students how to make raised flower beds, build benches, and plant beautiful flowers properly. “I was so excited that this group won because they were designing an outdoor classroom, and I think we have so many issues with kids in middle school because we are trapping them inside classrooms, when they could be outside.”

As a part of the Bernzomatic program, Curtis said, “I really just try to focus on helping people become makers and stay makers and have the opportunity to do that." Her passion for helping communities has always been in her blood. “I’ve always seen a need, so where you see a need, you just do.”

Volunteering is a process that Curtis encourages everyone to become a part of. “I always tell people that you will never have any bad day volunteering at anything,” Curtis said. “It’s really everyone caring about everybody that’s in your community and giving back.”

April 28th was an extremely successful day for the Winslow Township Middle School. Their STEM program will now have plenty of space to let the creativity of their students flourish. Every day, new concepts on how to use technology to help the environment are being put to the test. Thanks to Winslow Township Middle School’s hard work and dedication, they are one step closer to making the world a better (and greener) place.

This blog was written by Melissa Tucker, a freelance writer for Townsquare Media South Jersey. 

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