Schools That Can (STC) has been partnering with i2 Camp since 2013 to provide traditionally underserved students with access to high-quality, project-based STEM learning experiences.
Initially we achieved this by recruiting students from STC schools and enrolling them in i2 Camp programs that provided a select number of scholarships for students from underserved communities. Since then, the partnership has evolved to include collaboratively run summer camps with significantly more scholarship seats, STC-facilitated camps at STC schools that serve 100% underserved students, and most recently, immersion programs during the school year. This past Spring, we worked with i2 Learning, an offshoot of i2 Camp, to pilot STEM “Immersion Weeks” at 4 schools across our network.
The inaugural STC-i2 STEM Immersion program provided hands-on STEM learning experiences to 250 students in grades 4-7 across 4 schools in the NY/NJ area: VOICE Charter School, Storefront Academy Harlem, Link Community Charter School, and Great Oaks Charter Middle School. In May, 14 teachers from across these schools were trained in project-based learning pedagogy and specifically in the curricular content for two courses: Robotics and Digital Game Design. STC provided planning support to all schools as they reimagined their schedules for 1 week at the end of the school year to enable an immersive, project-based STEM experience. During the week, students built and coded their own robots, resulting in a “sumo bot challenge” at the end of the week, or programmed their own digital games, which culminated in a playtest experience.
As a result of the program, we saw increased confidence in participating teachers’ ability to collaborate across disciplines and facilitate project-based learning, as well an increase in students’ self-perception of their math and science abilities. Students also indicated improved abilities to collaborate and think critically to solve problems.
Feedback from administrators, teachers, and students was also overwhelmingly positive! Read takeaways from the STEM Immersion program below.
“Overall, the immersion week was a fantastic program for Great Oaks Charter School. The program was run.. in early June, enabling teachers to engage students at… a time when it has often proved difficult to keep students focused. The most rewarding part… was seeing how empowering the program was for students. The quickness with which students were able to build an entirely new skill set was remarkable. In 4 days, they grew from having little to no knowledge of programming… to feeling comfortable and confident in working with the technology on their projects. The week-long immersion culminated in a showcase in which students showed off their projects from the program. From the perspective of an educator, the best part of the showcase was watching students critique and give feedback to their peers. This opportunity for students to bounce ideas off of each other and consequently elevate their own work as well as the work of their peers is a unique benefit of project-based learning.” ~Kathryn Galasso, Teacher at Great Oaks Charter School
“The goal [of the immersion week] was to broaden our students’ horizons by exposing them to project based STEM learning, and build life skills inside the classroom. Throughout the week, students and teachers were visibly pushed out of their comfort zones. Teachers, particularly those of English/Language Arts, were challenged to facilitate a program that fell outside the bounds of [their] subject matter. Even science and math teachers, however, were stretched to learn something new alongside their students, as many did not have a strong background in coding or robotics before the i2 training. Link students were pushed academically and socially as they engaged in a new way of learning and collaborating with peers.
[The program] gave [teachers] an opportunity to discover new ways in which their different learners can thrive. The students also played off of each others’ strengths within their smaller groups and developed strong communication and collaboration skills as they worked with students outside of their groups and class. Overall, the immersion allowed for the development of communication and collaboration with an entirely new group of peers. We hope that our students will direct the skills they learned and their sense of piqued curiosity in their future academic and professional endeavors. As for our teachers, there is interest in incorporating more project-based learning into the curriculum.” ~Natalia Sardo, Administrator at Link Community Charter School
“The best thing about this course is seeing the creativity of my peers and actually playing the games.” ~ Link student
“What I enjoyed most about immersion week was when I was designing my game, I got to try to figure out how to do it myself.” – VOICE student
“I would like to work in robotics some day. It’s pretty cool building and making things that can better the world in many ways.” ~Link student
“I enjoyed getting experience in what I want my career choice to be.” – Link student
“I enjoyed seeing… my daughter’s enthusiasm every day when she explained to me her experiments and lab classes. These opportunities give [students] the chance to visualize a better future for themselves.” ~ Parent
Students from STC schools in New York, Newark, Chicago, and Cleveland are beating the summer slump by participating in i2 camp courses this summer as well. Twenty students from STC schools attended the camp at Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark. In New York, over 30 students are participating in courses held at the Marymount School. In Chicago, STC facilitated a camp program at Namaste Charter School earlier in July, and this week, students in Cleveland began camp at Urban Community School.