Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Create, Engage, Experiment, Excite, Immerse: Summer Focus on STEM!!

An immersion experience is one during which learners are deeply engaged and actively learning, creating, and producing over a period of time. Like a foreign language immersion school or classroom, when you immerse your students/children & youth in STEM- STEM becomes a part of their everyday experience!!        

Immersion creates a sense of ‘ownership’ and increases the value students have for the learning and outcomes are improved and achievement increases!           

To be immersed in STEM programming allows learners to focus on the skills and concepts of scientific thinking and problem-solving while being exposed to future oriented skill-building. Discussing ideas, creating new solutions, working with and developing new technologies are exciting to young people! STEM is a widely known acronym for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. As a nation, we have become excited about STEM and the benefits of STEM learning for all students.

Even with all the attention and new programs, we continue, however, to see STEM as an area of disproportionate representation. In a blog posting earlier this year, it was noted that cultural minority youth participate in STEM less frequently than students from Asian and Anglo backgrounds. This lack of participation is the result of a lack of access and opportunities, not necessarily to a lack of interest in STEM related courses and activities.

At a gifted and talented symposium earlier this month, Doug Paulson, STEM Integration specialist with the Minnesota Department of Education, indicated that four very important “C” skills are developed through STEM involvement:

  1. Creativity
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Collaboration
  4. Cross Cultural Connection

Developing these skills in ALL learners will be crucial to their sustained success in school as they prepare for secondary and post-secondary education, training, and entry into the world of work. It’s a small world and we need to do all we can to ensure that ALL high ability children have competitive expertise, critical thinking skills, and communication skills needed to work with their peers across the nation and around the world.

Use this summer as a time to stir up interest in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics by immersing your children and youth in STEM programming helping them to take advantage of the numerous long-term benefits that come from participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics related courses.

We can combat the low number of children of color, particularly Black and Hispanic students enrolled in STEM related secondary and post secondary programs by stirring up interest early and sustaining this interest through active engagement. The idea that students are not interested in STEM is just a myth! Like so many other myths perpetuated by general society about children of color, we MUST do our part to dispel the myths.

Recently, I scanned  several websites  sharing STEM related programming and competitions and noticed an obvious equity issue. Most of the sites presented pictures of students from Anglo, Asian, Middle Eastern cultures, few if any represented African American and Hispanic American students. Again, the income gap may be at work here, because participation in STEM programs can be costly, however, it is interesting to note that major corporations we all support provide substantial funding for most of these programs. So we’re back to the issue of access and opportunities.

We must do our part to help children of color know that STEM careers are for them, too!! STEM careers are interesting, exciting and allow students to create new ideas and innovative products that contribute to the advancement of society. Exposure and Access will change the Outcomes! STEM related disciplines also provide opportunities to engage in hands on, experimental design, competitions, and to engage with the global neighbors. 

A few tips:
1)    Enroll your child in summer STEM camps that are available at many colleges and universities nationwide! Conduct a web search to find programs in your area (some of the links below may be of assistance). It’s not too late!!

2)    Visit area science museums and participate in brief (1-2 day) workshops

3)    Create a STEM club within your own community. Purchase Lego Robotics kits, engage an area engineer or college students to come and work with the students. Provide a space, access to ‘wi-fi’, computers, and also provide a meal so that your young designers, builders, creators are nutritionally able to work ALL Day!!

4)    Investigate the possibility of initiating a STEM partnership program supported by private and public funding. Solicit neighbors and family members in STEM careers to serve on your advisory board. Inquire about funding through government agencies and private foundations

5)    Create, Innovate, Engage, Design, Application, Model, Collaborate are just a few words used frequently in STEM classrooms. Increase your child’s use of the words by posting STEM words throughout the home for vocabulary development. Use the words in general conversation and discuss transferability of words to other contexts

6)    Study inventions by male & female Engineers, Scientists, Mathematicians from culturally diverse backgrounds. Post pictures, provide biographies, and other books of interest for easy student access

Use the resources listed below to get started: 

v  egifted online courses  

v  Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

v  National Society of Black Engineers
The National Society for Black Engineers strives to increase the number of minority students studying engineering at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. To accomplish this, their activities include high school and middle grades outreach programs.

v  National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) 
The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering provides leadership and support for the national effort to increase the representation of successful African American, American Indian and Latino women and men in STEM-focused careers.

v  Society of Women Engineers (SWE) 
SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women SWE empowers women to succeed and advance in those aspirations.

v  Uplift, Inc. Washington, D.C.
Uplift, Inc. guides preK-12 students through innovative educational experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics and Computer Science (STEAM+CS), teaching them to solve everyday problems as they advance toward making real world impact.

Uplift's 4 week-long summer camps are geared towards students ages 8-17. This summer classes focus on programming concepts, game design & scoring (music), robotics, and animation.

"A focus on STEM concepts especially among underrepresented populations is increasingly important as technology has been integrated in every area of our lives. When children are engaged in hands-on programs that help them understand the theory on which STEM concepts are based it demystifies what are typically considered as "hard" subjects. It also promotes a desire to investigate and solve problems while having fun and developing team building skills" 
                                                           – Nailah Mbiti, Engineer & Educator Kansas City, MO. 

Our readers would love to hear about your STEM program experiences, please comment here to share your ideas, resources, and personal testimonies of the benefits of STEM for yourself, your students, & others !!


  1. We so appreciate being featured in this article - for many reasons. One, our mission statement includes the word 'immerse' - we immerse students in STEM education. Two, we also go by a list of 'C' words: cultural relevance, constructivism, critical thinking (21st century skills), computational thinking, and critical theory. These concepts are important to us because we attempt to foster and maintain an interest in lifelong learner in our students - one in which we hope they think critically about the world around them and do so in such a way that they create change.

    Thanks you so much for including us. We look forward to seeing this list grow in the near future!

    1. Your most welcome!! Your program is model for others nationwide! Thank you for the great work you do and for sharing your successes with all of us!

  2. Great tips and resources. Forward with STEM!

  3. Thanks for the feedback!! Looking forward to future collaborations!!!

  4. Congratulation to you. I am happy after reading your post that you have posted in this blog. Thanks for this wonderful post and hoping to post more of this.
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