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Science Magnet Program Began In The Bear Tavern

The students of grade fourth school district three zero six of the valley region in an innovative new science, technology, engineering and math magnet program, emphasizing practical method, learning science in all disciplines.

The program, offered for the first time this year, enrolls students in two classroom sections at Bear Tavern Elementary School.

The students come from all four of the district’s elementary schools, and four of the students come from the neighboring school districts of Ewing and Trenton as part of the state’s Interdistrict Public School Choice program. That means the state pays the Hopewell Valley tuition for each out-of-district student, helping to defray the cost of the program.

Last spring, Hopewell Valley got more than 50 applicants for the new program. All of the students took a test and were given a hands-on, engineering and/or scientific task to perform as part of their evaluation to determine if their skills made them a good match for the magnet, according to Principal Bruce Arcurio, who is on leave now.

"It was a scientific, engineering and creativity problem using common materials that each child worked on," Mr. Arcurio said. "Afterwards, they discussed their thought processes about the project."
Staff also interviewed the children and their parents about why they wanted to be in the program.

"We want kids who are different kinds of learners, who are tinkerers," Mr. Arcurio said. "We looked for kids with an aptitude for this type of learning."

Mr. Arcurio emphasized special education students with learning differences are included in the STEM magnet.

The program teaches science and all of the fourth-grade curriculum subjects through a problem solving, inquiry-based, learning lens, Mr. Arcurio said. For example, while doing the current scientific unit on water and weather, they may read books about water during reading class and do water-related problems in math.

Other scientific units the classes will cover this year are energy, human body systems and forces.

One day in class, the magnet students were building homemade water filters using plastic bottles, gravel, cotton balls, cheese cloth, coffee filters and other materials. Each group designed and redesigned their filters, gathered materials, figured out how much their filter cost, built it, then tested it for speed and cleaning ability.

On another class day in the fall, the group visited the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, the environmental organization that is building a new environmental education center that is packed with green building features.

Donning hard hats, holding clipboards and looking every inch like a pack of junior engineers, the group toured the site and learned about solar panels, green roofs, geothermal heating and cooling, rain gardens and other aspects of green building technology.

They also took part in a hands-on lesson on the water cycle.

"So far, the students are thrilled and excited," said the principal, who noted feedback from parents in the program has been positive.

The current fourth-graders will continue in the magnet program in fifth grade as well, then go into the standard curriculum in middle school and high school in Hopewell Valley.

Parents and students interested in applying for the program next year should contact Superintendent Thomas Smith’s office at or 609-737-4000, ext. 2101.

Information can be found on the district website under magnet programs at

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