Earth's ground-level gravitational field pulls objects in at a rate of 9.8 meters per second squared.

Simply reading the above fact in a textbook will give students a basic understanding of the numbers, but nothing illustrates the science behind the process quite like actually dropping things - and in the Margate City Public School District, that's exactly how teachers get this and other lessons across to their students.

On June 11, the school district demonstrated its project-based learning curriculum through its fourth annual Titan Showcase at the Eugene A. Tighe School.

Margate Superintendent Theresa DeFranco, who implemented the showcase as part of a five-year plan for the district to increase its emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, said the curriculum has been embraced by the school community.

"It's wonderful," DeFranco said. "When we first started, we said 'STEM' - people weren't sure of what we were talking about. Now, it's an everyday part of what we do."

The event, previously known as STEM night for its focus on science and tech fields, was rebadged this year in recognition of its emphasis on the arts and humanities as a complement to these fields.

Community members, whether parents of students or not, toured the Tighe School halls to view a variety of student projects from throughout the school year, such as interior design diagrams, biographies of tech innovators and wind-powered pulleys.

One of the most popular displays at the showcase was a bike-powered blender made by district computer teacher Amy Hughes as a lesson on simple machines. As students pedaled, the bike's rear tire spun a skateboard wheel, which was connected by a shaft to the blender's blade.

Seeing the kids' response to her displsy and others, Hughes said, made the project-based curriculum's benefits clear.

"Any experiment, any one of these things, the kids just eat it up, because it's interactive," Hughes said. "It's not just somebody telling them how something works. They discover for themselves."

The district's student-run garden - a wide-open courtyard at the center of the Tighe campus in which students grow vegetables for sale at market - was also a big draw at the showcase.

Carl and Karen Tripician, parents of four Margate students and participants in the garden, said they have attended the fairs each year. The couple said they like how proactive the district is in engaging its students creatively.

"It starts from the child and their imagination, and what they're able to do is run with that imagination and go down any number of paths that are set out by the teacher," he said.

This year's showcase afforded the school an opportunity to show off the newest aspect of its curriculum, its teacher-run enrichment programs. For the program, teachers in the district create classes which meet briefly on Thursdays and Fridays. Students select the classes they would like to take and rotate each semester.

When DeFranco first implemented the STEM overhaul that led to the showcase's creation, she was met with confusion. Now, the subject area - and the showcase - have become an integral part of school for the students.

"The whole goal was for them not to be afraid of doing STEM," DeFranco said. "We have kids that don't want to miss school because it's STEM day."

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