CLAREMONT — School and city officials joined representatives from the Boston Bruins organization and Red River Technology at Claremont Middle School on Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a fully-renovated, three-room Industrial Arts Center funded through a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lab grant program created by Red River and the NHL team.
The project, whose construction took place over the summer, converted vacant spaces in the school’s lower level into three state-of-the art classrooms for instruction in technology education, computing and the fine arts. The classrooms have been newly retiled, repainted, furnished and equipped with a bevy of advanced tools, including a laser cutter, a 3-D printer, a kiln and pottery wheels, radio and film equipment, a smart board and computers.
“It’s what the kids and teachers deserve,” said Superintendent Michael Tempesta. “What excites me the most is the creativity that’s happening down there. This place is such a hotbed of creativity right now . . . and we just want to keep that going.”
Claremont Middle School is just the second recipient of the STEM Lab Challenge grant, which Red River and the Boston Bruins created in 2018 to help schools in New England enhance their learning opportunities utilizing advanced technologies. The partners awarded the first grant to the Sparks Academy, a public middle school in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Claremont Middle School was awarded the grant in 2019, beating out approximately 60 schools across New England.
“We were so excited because our corporate headquarters are here,” said Gina Burke of the Red River Charitable Foundation. “The Boston Bruins were in full support of it going here.”
Dan McGee, chief executive officer of Red River, credited Claremont resident and school board member Rob Lovett for helping Claremont win the grant.
Lovett, who also works at Red River, nominated Claremont Middle School and applied for the grant on the district’s behalf.
“Rob is not only deeply connected to Claremont but to Red River, so he sees how we work,” McGee said. “So he was able to put the right pieces of messaging into that [application], which really resonated with the Bruins and Red River.”
This celebration was arguably as much about the fruits made reachable through partnership and collaboration as the center itself, according to officials in attendance.
The partnership between the entities, including the two organizations and the City of Claremont, grew over many years, McGee said, noting Red River relocated to Claremont because of the relationship it built with city officials such as Claremont Business and Planning Director Nancy Merril, as well as the partnerships that led to the revitalization of the Mill District, which today houses Red River, the Common Man and, in the spring, a Chinburg-owned apartment building with 87 market rate apartments.
“The change taking shape [in Claremont] is real,” McGee said. “There is revitalization and economic growth and there is educational uplift that is occurring with all this other good business that is happening.”
McGee also praised Red River’s long-running business and philanthropic partnership with the Boston Bruins, saying many of their charitable projects were only possible through collaboration.
“Partnerships is really what it’s all about,” McGee said. “I don’t think schools can do it by themselves. Cities can’t do it by themselves. Certainly Red River can’t and the Boston Bruins organization can’t.”
Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett said this partnership brought the type of technology that Claremont schools have long sought but struggled to acquire, “not for a lack of desire but a lack of funding.”
“We knew that access to the right technology would shape students’ interests and abilities and prepare them for career fields, some of which don’t yet exist,” Lovett said. “Unfortunately, in a community with a limited tax base, state of the art STEM and STEAM labs were not financially feasible.”
A tour of the classrooms, where seventh graders worked diligently on an array of different projects, illustrated the diversity of learning opportunities available.
In the tech-ed lab seventh grader Jeremiah Van Alstyne, 12, crafted decorative pencil holders, each individually shaped from tools including a lathe, chisels, sandpaper and a wood-burning torch for an aesthetic coating.
“This one is for my brother, which looks like a scroll because he likes mythological stuff,” Alstyne said. “This [other] one is a baseball bat, which I made for myself.”
In the computer lab students worked independently on projects using iPads. Isaac Garrow, 13, was using Garageband, a music studio application, to add a new layer of bass to his music composition.
In the art room Brandon “Brendon” Garner, 13, and Matthew Howard, 12, had finished their contribution to a collaborative project based on the artwork of Jen Stark, a conceptual artist known for her bold integration of colors and psychedelic patterns to create lively or naturalistic effects.
Howard said he finds digital art-making tools difficult to control, though bringing technology into the art room is ideal for finding and sharing ideas with one another.
Computer Education teacher Alex Hill said the center not only enables students to understand and evaluate more advanced tools, but has bolstered offerings in afterschool programs such as the Art Club, which has grown in popularity during the pandemic.
“Right now the kids are desperate for anything after school,” Hill said. “Because they haven’t been able to be here as much in the last two years, they are dying for that connection. So all of our clubs have been filled to capacity.”