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Allentown School District and Da Vinci Center team up on 'themed' STREAM school

Birks Da Vinci
Allentown School District
Allentown School District Superintendent Carol Birks discusses the partnership at the new Da Vinci Science Center on Friday, June 9, 2023.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Second-grader Amelio Chinchilla is one of the students who could benefit from a new partnership between the Allentown School District and the Da Vinci Science Center.

“When I get bigger, I want to go on a rocket ship,” he said Friday.

  • The Allentown School Board approved a 6-year deal with the Da Vinci Science Center for a campus for Central Elementary School students
  • Other ASD students could also benefit from the programs
  • It's the first "themed" school that would not be a charter or private school

The Allentown School Board approved a six-year contract with Da Vinci Science Center on Thursday night. They’re partnering to create what the school district announced is the first theme-based school that is non-charter, non-private in the Lehigh Valley.
The Da Vinci Science Center is opening a secondary campus for Allentown’s Central Elementary School students.

The facility, located at the PPL Pavilion in downtown Allentown where the new science center is being built, will be the home of the ASD STREAM Academy. STREAM stands for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

Only the beginning

Central Elementary School students will have access to immersive exhibit experiences, state-of-the-art classrooms and STEAM professionals, exploring concepts and participating in project-based learning, the district said.

Schools Superintendent Carol Birks said the new partnership with Da Vinci is just the beginning.

“We also intend to create theme-based schools across the district so that all of our school communities and our families will have greater choice and opportunity to attend schools that they that best meet the needs of their children,” Birks said.

The STREAM Academy at Eighth and Hamilton streets is just a few blocks and minutes from Central Elementary School.

Birks said the launch is scheduled for spring 2024, but certificate programs and field trips will begin in the fall. Birks said the STREAM Center would focus on K-2 first, but older grades will also be able to visit the science center as the phases roll out.

“When I get bigger, I want to go on a rocket ship."
Allentown second-grader Amelio Chinchilla

Brand new center

“This is the natural next step in furthering the established partnership between the district and Da Vinci Science Center,” said Lin Erickson, CEO of Da Vinci Science Center. “This unprecedented approach underscores what we set out to do when we decided to build a new science center in the heart of Allentown."

The $80 million, 67,000-square-foot science center is set to be completed in the spring and include 30,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space.

It will replace the science center that has operated in a building owned by Cedar Crest College at 3145 Hamilton Blvd. for nearly 20 years.

State Sen. Nick Miller, D-Lehigh, said, like Amelio, he was excited.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for our community. I recently found myself saying almost every day, ‘My office is right across the street, and a couple of blocks away is one of the poorest census tracts in the Lehigh Valley,’” he said.

“And how we are going to improve that community is through innovation and investing in our school district.”

The planning would include grades 3 through 9 in years 2025-2029.