STEM and the Summer OpportunityBy: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) & Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth
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This week, when the California School Boards Association convenes for its annual education conference, school board members and superintendents will meet to discuss innovations and best practices to advance student achievement.
Some of these innovations come from a successful pilot program demonstrating the effectiveness of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning during the summer months, and how out-of-school time programs are well-suited for engaging students in STEM curriculum.
This summer, the Partnership for Children and Youth (PCY) and Techbridge, in collaboration with the Oakland Unified and Mt. Diablo Unified School Districts, piloted a new curriculum with 623 youth at 10 elementary schools in the Oakland and Mount Diablo districts.
Using hands-on activities around the theme of energy conservation, the pilot engaged students in introductory lessons on electrical energy and the environmental impact of energy consumption, as well as hands-on activities like conducting an energy audit to assess their own classroom’s energy efficiency and developing suggestions for making it more energy efficient, creating a public service announcement about energy conservation and a science fair for students’ families.
The program tested the hypothesis that engaging, activity-based curriculum delivered in a summer learning setting would be effective in educating students and catalyzing student interest in science.
Almost all students reported increased interest and engagement with science, reporting that the program taught them new things (94%), made science more interesting (93%) and more fun (92%), and made them more excited to do science activities (86%), and want to learn more about science (85%). A solid majority even reported that the program made them more interested in a pursuing a career in science.
These results make evident that integrating STEM curriculum into after school and summer learning programs is a vital way to bolster STEM education year-round. The nature of STEM learning is experiential and requires a dynamic and interactive learning environment that out-of-school-time programs are particularly well-positioned to provide.
With growing investment in STEM education in classrooms across California and the country, it’s important to support STEM in after school and summertime learning programs as well. These programs offer flexibility and learning spaces that contribute to STEM learning by complementing the school-day and providing hands-on context to make STEM relevant to young people’s lives. This powerful approach promises to set our children up for academic and professional success in STEM fields.
With Proposition 30’s recent passage, California voters clearly stated their commitment to boosting our children’s access to quality education. Now is the time to make sure that we are investing wisely in education programs that deliver results year-round.