“I want to be an astrophysicist.” “I want to be a biomedical engineer.” “I want to be a gastroenterologist.” “I want to be a computer systems software developer.” “I want to be a mathematician.”
Those aren’t exactly the words you’re likely to hear from the young students enrolled in our state-licensed preschool, but we plant the seeds for meaningful careers at the earliest possible opportunity. And that focus continues as they walk with us through high school graduation and on to college.
It’s part of our focus on STEM curriculum—otherwise known as the U.S. Department of Education’s program to educate students about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center report, “employment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations has grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth.”
“We work hand-in-hand with educators and the business community to prepare our students for meaningful careers in fields where demand is growing,” says David Benavides, our CEO and Executive Director. “STEM is an integral part of our curriculum each school day, and that’s going to increase in 2019. The Pew findings tell us that KidWorks is on the right path towards creating the skilled STEM workforce of tomorrow.”
These are just a few examples of how the STEM experience benefits students enrolled in all grade levels and throughout our programs:
Preschool: Each month, our youngest students study a different animal, reptile or bird. (Maybe some may become zoologists one day!). This year, they also visited a local pumpkin patch and are tending to pumpkin plants they’re nurturing from seeds planted in our garden. They are also doing drawings showing progress of their plants—all increasing their knowledge of the sciences. Students are also learning basic math skills including counting and sequencing.
Kindergarten through fifth grade: It’s “STEM Monday” at the start of each school week during our afterschool programs. KidWorks extends a big “thank you!” to our partners at PBS, who are providing hands-on curriculum and activities focused on various science concepts.
As we did in 2018, next year’s spring break activities in April will include a science camp, which provides a daily three hour focus on STEM. Other STEM activities during the year have included workshops generously hosted by our partners, DPR Construction, PIMCO and Waste Management.
Youth: We are deeply grateful to T-Mobile, who recently conducted an in-depth STEM workshop that received rave reviews from 45 of our students in fifth through high school grades. The approximately two dozen T-Mobile volunteers hosted a hands on workshop where they designed cell phone towers and programed droids and had races.
Several T-Mobile employees spoke with our students about career opportunities in the fields of engineering and technology. (Editor’s note: A full story about the T-Mobile workshops will appear in our January eNews and blog.)
Another way we promoted STEM for our youth in 2018 were visits to college campuses during spring break, where our students met with science and math majors attending those universities.
“We’re very grateful to everyone who helps make our STEM focus possible,” says David Benavides. “The engineers, scientists, doctors and software engineers of tomorrow are in our classrooms today, diligently learning about science, technology, engineering and math.”
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer