Engineering Moves on Up to Fieldston Upper

19 Apr 2022
ByRobin Becker, Assistant Director of Communications, Institutional Engagement

Beginning in the 2022–2023 academic year, the beloved Fieldston Middle Engineering program is moving on up. In the fall, 9th and 10th Grade students can choose to take an elective course in engineering for the very first time.

Up to this point, students at Fieldston Upper who were interested in engineering could join the popular Engineering Club and compete in the Rube Goldberg Contest, which ECFS has hosted for many years. Once students reached 11th or 12th Grade, they could select an arts elective course in engineering design. Starting next year, however, a formal, year-long course in engineering will be offered — and it’s all thanks to a group of passionate students.

In January of 2022, Zoe G. ’26, Sophia T. ’26, Avery S. ’26, and Emma K. ’26 met with John Baglio, Fieldston Middle Engineering Teacher, and Paul Church, Chair of the Fieldston Upper Science Department, to request the option to continue studying engineering once they entered high school. The students wrote a formal request for a new course, and, with the help of Baglio and Church, submitted it to the School. They were clear with their intentions — they did not want the only way to pursue engineering to be an extracurricular activity. They wanted a formal, year-long course, where they could dive deeper into the subject matter and expand upon the knowledge they gained in their 7th and 8th Grade classes.

Church — who has wanted to bring engineering to Fieldston Upper for several years — viewed the students’ eagerness as a sign that the time had come. “We had all these questions — ‘What band will the class take place in? Who will teach it? Which classroom can we use?’ — but when these students approached us, I realized it was time to stop making excuses and make it happen.”

Baglio and Church were more than willing to tackle any obstacles in their path to offering this course because they both know how valuable an engineering curriculum can be for students. “Engineering is the epitome of progressive education,” explains Church. “This is hands-on learning; this is students working together to solve problems. The benefits are going to far outweigh any of the obstacles we run into.”

The determination of the 8th Graders, Church, and Baglio paid off: The new course was approved in the spring and two sessions of the elective will be offered to freshman and sophomores in the 2022–2023 academic year.

Baglio will teach both sessions of the Fieldston Upper engineering course. He plans to adapt his Fieldston Middle classes for older students and create a curriculum that dives deeper into the science behind engineering, incorporating both mechanical and electronic lessons. In his 7th and 8th Grade classes, Baglio focuses on group work and iteration — students complete projects such as building robots, creating animated scenes, and crafting furniture made from cardboard. Fieldston Upper students will explore the mechanics of why things work the way they do — why using a screw works differently from a nail, for example. “It will still be fun, there will be a ton of creativity, and we will integrate more of the science background,” says Baglio. “When they create something, it won’t be enough to stop because it works. We will learn why it works.”

Baglio has enjoyed the excitement and uncertainty of developing an entirely new curriculum. “All of my engineering classes have been about building and creation, and that’s what I have had to do with this new course,” he says. “It will be a work in progress, a creation of a new place for students to create stuff.”

“I think it’s going to be extraordinarily successful,” adds Church. “After we offer these courses, we will need to find ways to offer the next level, and then the next level. These kids are so eager to take these classes. But let that be the worst problem we have.”