Education focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has been gaining momentum for nearly a decade. And STEM education is more than just what is taught in a classroom.
There are a number of educators and community organizations that offer out-of-the-classroom opportunities ranging from summer camps and computer programming sessions to hands-on experiences at the zoo. These opportunities can make a world of difference to students who need just a bit of extra encouragement.
A recent report from the STEM Education Coalition affirmed the importance of after-school activities based in STEM.
“Kids power up their STEM skills by plugging into immersive activities extending beyond the standard school day, including hobby clubs, after-school and summer programs, museums, parks and online activities. In communities without enough of these outlets, children miss the chance to charge their learning outside of school. That lack of STEM practice can have a draining effect on the knowledge and skills they accrue at school,” states the report.
Here are a couple Central-Ohio specific examples:
Columbus Museum of Art
The museum hosts a Teen Open Studio, a twice weekly, after-school, free program developed around the concept of HOMAGO (hanging out, messing around and geeking out). The teens receive peer-to-peer collaboration, mentor guidance and informal learning experiences through the arts and digital media tools.
“Teen Open Studio is unique in that it supports experimentation and creation through a wide range of new and traditional materials. This erodes the labels of ‘art kids’ and ‘tech kids,’ instead creating a cross-pollination of ideas. The teens find it exciting because the environment allows them to use tools and materials they would otherwise have no access to, within a teen-friendly environment where they are taken seriously and allowed opportunities to take risks, with the support of relatable mentors,” states the museum’s grant application.
Highland Youth Garden
The garden is located in Columbus’ Hilltop neighborhood and has served local children for eight years. During school days, summer break and weekends, children visit the garden for STEM –based lessons and gardening activities that range from starting seeds to harvesting, with a focus on the impact of good nutrition.
“We have had great success in reaching elementary students with STEM-based garden learning experiences. In the future, we will introduce STEM-based garden learning for younger children, from infant to grade three. These young children will be introduced to the garden as a learning environment with lessons related to temperature data, solar exposure, the war between weeds and nutrients, insects, pollinators and plant growth and development,” states the garden’s grant application.
The Shadowbox Academy, and its cornerstone project STEM Rocks the Box, uses live performance as a lab and award-winning seasoned professionals as mentors for students. Their efforts culminate in a public showcase each spring.
“The overall goal of the academy programs is to prepare students for life challenges no matter what field they pursue. These programs help students build resilience, overcome fears, receive critical/constructive feedback and experience the thrill of performing,” states the academy’s grant application.
But these out-of-the-classroom opportunities often are not funded through a school district or city recreation department. So how do we encourage the people who come up with these great opportunities ensure their ideas become reality?
That’s a big part of the reason why the Battelle STEM Grant Program was created three years ago. Battelle has been involved with STEM education since the beginning and allocates the bulk of its philanthropic dollars to education efforts. Last month, Battelle awarded $565,000 to fund 14 out-of-classroom learning projects in Central Ohio.
Learn more about the grant program and the other recipients of this round of funding.