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See How These Bed-Stuy Fourth Graders Taught Adults How to Code and Fly a Plane

During Master Class Day, the elementary school students of Bed-Stuy’s Ronald E. McNair P.S. 5 showcased their prowess in STEM, aviation, urban gardening and more.
Teacher Jerome O'Braynt (left) Principal Lena Gates (Right) and students at Ronald E. McNair P.S. 5 in Bed-Stuy.

Could you code, raise crops or operate a virtual aircraft in fourth grade? The students at Ronald E. McNair Public School 5, an elementary school in Bed-Stuy, can do all of that and more, due to its seriously cool extracurricular program that operates during lunch and after school. 

And, on Thursday, May 25, they showed off their amazing new skills during several live demonstrations for invited guests and stakeholders, including State Sen. Jabari Brisport. 

“The goal is to find their gifts,” Principal Lena Gates said. She has enthusiastically led the charge for the school’s selection of unique extracurricular activities, which are constantly being adapted to meet the changing world. The program, she said, has been around for about a decade.

Fourth grader Quentin Smith gives a demonstration on how to use the software program Blender. Photo: Christopher Edwards for BK Reader.

Guests of P.S. 5’s Master Class Day were first treated to a presentation in the school's STEM lab. Fourth grader Quentin Smith led a demonstration of how to use a powerful 3D modeling software called Blender, which can be used to create detailed digital scenes.

The students' STEM education — which stands for science, technology, engineering and math — is about to become even more robust. P.S. 5 recently partnered with Dr. Wednaud Ronelus, a STEM educator, who will teach students the fundamentals of coding using a popular programming language called Python. 

“You can create systems, even at the elementary school level, where kids can learn how to code,” Ronelus said. “You have to start early.”

A student instructs on aviation simulation at P.S. 5's aviation center. Photo: Christopher Edwards for BK Reader.

After getting a crash course in Blender, guests of the master class learned to take flight at P.S. 5’s very own “aviation center,” sponsored by American Airlines. The room features flight simulator hardware and software where children can learn the basics of operating aircraft.

“I try to keep everything very simplified and easy to understand, easy to remember," said Jerome O’Bryant, an instructor at the school, who is also a commercial pilot. “It gives them a core memory. They could grow up to say, 'I did this third grade, fourth grade. I know I can possibly do this. I already had the background.'"

The final stop of the master class took place outside in the school’s urban garden. There, students have been learning to grow plants like tomatoes and cabbage.

The garden at P.S. 5 would not be possible without the help of the school’s community, Gates said. One student’s parent built the planters for the plants, while another parent donated the soil.

“The community has united with the school to help us build," Gates said.

Students learn to grow and cultivate plants at P.S. 5's urban garden. Photo: Christopher Edwards for BK Reader.

But the students are not only learning to grow plants — there is also a technological and entrepreneurial element to the garden, teachers said. The school plans to open a restaurant in partnership with nearby restaurants Grandchamps and Saraghina. Ronelus also plans to help the children install sensors in the planters and create an app that can tell the children when the plants need water. 

Gates said that although they are only an elementary school, students at P.S. 5 are getting training that will not only well prepare them for high school, but also careers in these growing fields. Also, Gates said that P.S. 5 aims to set an example for other schools. 

“In actuality, we are trying to be a model school — and the model is so that everybody can see that you can do this," Gates said. 

Christopher Edwards

About the Author: Christopher Edwards

Christopher Edwards is a native Brooklynite and current student at Baruch College, majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing.
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