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Pruden Center offers fun summer courses

Instead of operating video games, students put down their controllers and learned how to operate bulldozers at the Pruden Center this summer during the STEM Summer Academy.

For its second year, the academy hosted nearly 20 rising ninth and 10th graders on Wednesday and Thursday to teach them scientific, mathematical and technological skills and how to apply them to real-world situations.

“We want to show the students the natural marriage between the courses taught and the hands-on application,” said Pruden Center Director Corey McCray. “We give them an instruction piece and then do something to show comprehension of what’s been taught.”

The academy holds classes in five career fields — health care, construction trades, human services, auto technology and technology, which is interspersed in each of the other fields.

“Because technology plays such an important role in each of the fields, we teach the students the technology in each of them,” McCray said. “They learn the software and hardware application in each field.”

In construction trades, for instance, students worked with a bulldozer simulator so they could get a feel for how to handle the actual bulldozer, which they later tried their hand at, as well.

“We want these students to get a feel for the different fields they could go into and the classes they could take here in 11th grade,” McCray said. “If they know they want to take our classes, they can adjust their high school course loads to attend our school in their junior and senior years.”

Each of the classes also covered the theme “It’s Easy Being Green.” For example, students learned about green construction and energy-saving tips in construction trades classes.

“It helps gives our students a leg up on competition,” McCray said. “We work to integrate green concepts in all of our programs and it’s something we’re constantly moving forward with.”

When all is said and done, “our goal is for the kids to be excited with the end product,” McCray said. “We want to them to enjoy the things they’ve learned here and hopefully get a taste of something that they might want to pursue later in life.”