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DDC Middle School Enrichment Program Builds Courage, Aspirations and Enthusiasm in STEAM Fields, Study Finds


(Long Island City, NY – February 25, 2020) A study of 178 middle school students from Fort Greene Preparatory Academy, Amistad Academy Middle School, The Math & Science Exploratory School (MS 447), The Henry Bristow School (PS 39) and Baruch College STEP Academy who studied the Building the Future curriculum developed by the NYC Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) STEAM education initiative has found that following the program students were more interested in obtaining a job as an engineer or scientist and students wanted to take more math and science classes. 

Students from the Amistad Dual Language School in Manhattan created a “City of the Future” model that was presented at the Young Engineers Program showcase at the end of the six-week program

The Building the Future curriculum developed by DDC’s STEAM education initiative is implemented as part of the Young Engineers Program (YEP), a program designed to educate students on the fundamentals of environmentally responsible City planning as it pertains to public buildings and infrastructure. The curriculum emphasizes the structural characteristics of 3D shapes, bridge engineering, constructing with I-beams, creating building models and green technologies such as bioswales, tower gardens and green roofs. After students completed the six-week program, students presented their “City of the Future” at the YEP showcase.

DDC partnered with the NYC Department of Education (DOE) and the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to provide a series of hands-on, STEAM related curricula in schools and after-school programs. 

At the beginning of the program students were given a pre-questionnaire with 21 statements asking them to rank from 1 – 4 their affinity toward and perceived capability in STEAM career fields. At the end of the program, students were asked to complete the same questionnaire with five additional questions for students to share their favorite aspects of the program, their learnings and recommendations for future programming. After completing the program, students demonstrated:

  • A 18% decrease in the preference to work alone;
  • A 16% decrease in the belief that math is hard;
  • A 11% increase in interest for wanting to take more math and science classes;
  • A 11% decrease in the thought that it’s boring to learn engineering vocabulary; and
  • A 10% increase in the desire to study engineering or architecture in college.

The study was conducted by Dr. Leonisa Ardizzone, a science educator and founder of Storefront Science, who holds an Ed.D. in International Educational Development with a specialization in Peace Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Ed.M in Science Education and a B.A. in Biology.


Students discussed the sustainable engineering concepts that went into their “City of the Future” model at the Amistad Dual Language School in Manhattan

“DYCD is thrilled to join DDC and DOE in this ongoing partnership to expose our young people to high-quality, hands-on STEAM learning opportunities,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong. “Through the Building the Future curriculum our middle schoolers are on track to become our next generation of innovators. This work is making a difference for students across our City, including many who now see a clear path to studying STEAM subjects in higher education or pursuing a career in a STEAM field. Whether through the Young Engineers Program or DYCD-funded COMPASS afterschool programs, incorporating STEAM curriculum into their programming, helps students gain career-building skills that prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Many students believe that they don’t have the capability to enter STEAM fields and DDC is working to change that mindset,” said DDC Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “DDC’s STEAM education initiative is focused on developing today’s youth and ensuring that the underrepresented have an equal opportunity to learn STEAM related curricula with a balance of personal development and hands-on activities.”

“This study demonstrates the powerful impact that hands-on STEAM curriculum can have in helping students understand the world around them,” said Dr. Leonisa Ardizzone. “Students better grasp the value of math and science, the importance of learning to work together and are provided with the opportunity to see that the fields of engineering and architecture are available to them.”

“The results of the most recent survey of our Young Engineers Program underscores that middle school students in under resourced communities can thrive when provided exposure to the STEAM careers,” said DDC Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships & STEAM Initiatives Lee Llambelis. “It’s often said that students cannot be what they do not see like these fields with dismally low numbers of minorities and women. DDC STEAM seeks to change the landscape for generations to come.”

DDC’s STEAM education initiative collaborated with Dr. Ardizzone in January to introduce educators from 13 public middle schools and high schools, after-school programs and public and private colleges for a one-day professional development session to introduce them to DDC’s Building the Future curriculum. Educators learned the syllabus through hands-on engineering- and architecture-related activities. 

Other successful DDC STEAM programs include the ACE Mentor Program, Town & Gown and the High School Summer Internship Program, a six-week paid internship program for students interested in pursuing careers in architecture, engineering, building trades, public administration, business administration or information technology.

Overall, DDC STEAM has engaged with over 3,600 students in various programs since its inception in 2014. 

About the NYC Department of Design and Construction

The Department of Design and Construction is the City’s primary capital construction project manager. In supporting Mayor de Blasio’s long-term vision of growth, sustainability, resiliency, equity and healthy living, DDC provides communities with new or renovated public buildings such as such as firehouses, libraries, police precincts, and new or upgraded roads, sewers and water mains in all five boroughs. To manage this $14 billion portfolio, DDC partners with other City agencies, architects and consultants, whose experience bring efficient, innovative and environmentally-conscious design and construction strategies to City projects. For more information, please visit