Evolution of STEM

The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. There is a current, widespread, national effort to incorporate the basic principles of STEM into the K-12 curriculum. The rationale is that STEM skills will be (and in fact may already be) essential to a skilled workforce in the future; and essential as well to navigate in the modern world.    The evidence-based research and success of after school programs like SHINE make these programs natural, strategic partners for this national and global initiative. After school programs provide opportunities to reach populations that could benefit from, and may even have restricted access to, STEM learning. Successful, high quality after school programs have the right environment (enrichment, hands-on activities, project based learning), additional instructional time, and successful tack record that could support meaningful STEM learning.    Project SHINE has made a concerted effort to engage after school students in STEM topics. These efforts have included a plan to incorporate STEM topics and activities into the core curriculum, special programs (The Future Is Now Camp) to increase student awareness and involvement in STEM topics, and an approach to create pathways and build capacity that will result in STEM learning opportunities at all levels.

Evolution and History of STEM in the SHINE After-School Programs

Since its inception in 2005, the SHINE 21st Century After-School Program has integrated STEM activities that motivate, promote the careers of the future and increase academic achievement. In January of 2010, the SHINE STEM Career Camp Pilot Project was created through a partnership between the LCCC SHINE 21st Century After-School, Carbon County Action Committee and the Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) Careers on the Move Grant. The project targeted former SHINE 21st Century After-School students in grades 5 & 6 who were no longer SHINE eligible due to grade level. The program exposed a total of 109 students and families, 90 of who were low income, to four high priority occupations with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Career Camp was designed as a 5 week, hands-on, multi-disciplinary program that focused on Health Services, Business & Finance, Logistics, and Advanced Manufacturing (i.e., engineering, robotics). There was a program emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and the development of workforce skills. The curriculum included problem solving, global awareness, and effective communication. The program included field trips by students and families to the community college, the local technical school, a distribution center, and a large international plant that manufactures fire trucks.

The Career Camp program was offered in 5 centers in 4 school districts (Lehighton, Jim Thorpe, Panther Valley, and Shenandoah Valley) and ran from February through June. Data collected from the project demonstrated students increased their knowledge of jobs in the future by 30%; increased their understanding of the importance of reading and mathematics to future careers by 10%; and gained insight into the high priority occupation fields.  Data collected from students in three school districts also showed gains on academic performance (67%), improved science grades (62%), and classroom conduct (54%) from the 3rdto the 4th marking period on their report cards.

Due to the success of Career Camp the LCCC SHINE 21st Century After-School program has developed a 32 week intensive curriculum for 4th – 5th grade students based on state and national standards. Children in the 1st through 3rd grade program are exposed to developmentally appropriate STEM activities. SHINE teachers introduced the curriculum the fall of 2010.  STEM activities focus on high priority occupations and also encompass Critical Thinking, Health Care and Nutrition, Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering & Logistics & Transportation, Going Green (hydroponics, sustainable resources, alternative power, and conservation) Business and Finance with an emphasis on: problem solving, global awareness, and effective communication skills.  Intense summer camps also reinforce STEM activities. The curriculum is extremely unique, possibly a first, that provides academic rigorous activities for almost 500 low income, academically at-risk students and their families during the school  year and summer months. The SHINE Program has built in a strong parent and family involvement component which includes monthly dinners that highlight careers that focus on STEM. The program helps to build a bridge between home and school where all are invested in the success of the children and their future.

In the fall of 2011, the Carbon County Technical Institute, the LCCC SHINE 21st Century After-School Programs and the LCCC Transportation Federal Grant implemented a 5 week academy on 4 priority occupations focusing on STEM and included students in 6th through 8th grades. Students from the 5 Carbon County School Districts receive math/ reading tutoring hands-on activities in the areas of Computer Aided Drafting, Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) Green Energy, Mass Transit/ Logistics at the technical institute. The addition of the 6th to 8th grade career/ STEM camps created a seamless network of academic programs for at-risk children and their families from Kindergarten through 8th grade.  9th through 12th grade students have the opportunity to work as tutors/mentors in the SHINE Programs as their graduation project. Students receive certificates from the community college for their portfolios and an invitation to visit a college class of their choice. Students who plan to enter the field of education can transition into a paid internship through the SHINE 21stCentury After-School Program which provides a 32 week pre-service teacher laboratory experience.

SHINE in cooperation with the LCCC Careers on the Move Grant and the Department of Transportation Grant created a DVD (The Future is Now) on the effectiveness of STEM in after-school programs. It was formally introduced at the 2011 Lights on Celebration and can be viewed on YouTube.

SHINE has been very intentional in expanding the STEM Career Academy through a 2012 PDE 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant by examining research on effective technical strategies to engage middle school students and building on past successes.  Research by Dr. Kate Hynes “Engaging Youth in Career Programming during Out-of –School-Time,” has provided added strategies to motivate and inspire learning. Middle school students are exposed to the real world, the Seven C’s of 21st Century Work Skills which include: critical thinking, creativity/innovation, collaboration, cross -cultural understanding, communication, computing technology and career learning along with hands-on projects, shorter programming and mentoring relationships. The expanded Career Academy is a 36 week program composed of 6 week STEM Career Projects based on state/national standards.  The most recent career project, the “Cars of the Future, (6th-8th grade) students designed (CADD) a life size derby car, precision machined parts for the car, literally building the car from scratch from aluminum and steel. After a entering the car in a local race, students have already begun the process of design improvement. Utilizing a co-inquiry approach, students are working in technical labs with technical experts/ academic teachers to build a solar and a biodiesel engine the model of teaming academic and technical teachers has resulted in the ability for students to see the important application of math, science to their high school classes and future careers. The Academy staff also understand there is a commonality between the arts and science and provide opportunities to promote the integration. Summer camps will include: Pre-Engineering, Culinary, Arts & Music and Healthy Bodies/ Healthy Minds.

Evaluator’s Comments

1. 39 SHINE students (74%) were Proficient on the 4th grade Science test in 2011.

2. 94 respondents (82%) indicated their child improved in Science on the 2011 SHINE Parent Survey.    

3. 32 SHINE students (73%) were Proficient on the 3rd grade Math test in 2011.    

4. 41 SHINE students (77%) were Proficient on the 4th grade Math test in 2011.    

5. 107 SHINE students (90%) received a satisfactory or passing grade in Science on 2010-11 report cards.

6. 470 SHINE students (57%) received an Above Average or Superior grade (A or B) in Science on 2010-11 report cards.    

7. 12 SHINE students (10%)  received a below average or failing grade (D or F) in Science on 2010-11 report cards.

8. On the 2010-11 Pre- Post The Future Is Now surveystudent responses on selected questions were:   

           •Do you know what jobs are for the future? (59% answered Yes on the Pre- Survey, 82% on the Post-Survey).   

           •Do you know what it means to have a career in logistics? (21% answered Yes on the Pre- Survey, 62% on the Post-Survey).   

           •Is there a need for health care workers? (77% answered Yes on the Pre- Survey, 83% on the Post-Survey).   

           •Do you understand the field of Logistics, Advanced Manufacturing, Business & Finance, and Health Care? (78% answered Yes on the Pre- Survey, 87% on the Post-Survey).    

9. 106 K-5 SHINE students (80%) who attended Summer Career Camp indicated they enjoyed “That’s Science” and it was their favorite activity in the program.    

10. SHINE was one of nine programs highlighted on the National After School Alliance website for STEM evaluation results.

11. The Career Camp was a unique, innovative project.    

12. The Career Camp resulted in the development of a 32 week, standards-based, curriculum focusing on STEM for students in grades 4-5 that will be incorporated into the SHINE program in 2010-2011.    

13. The STEM Career Camp was another demonstration of the ability of SHINE administrators to build community partnerships and actively engage partners in collaborative efforts.    

14. The Career Camp Project provided an extended opportunity for students who were no longer eligible for the Pre-K -4thgrade SHINE program.    

15. Students were extremely enthusiastic about Career Camp and reacted very positively to the program.  Reflected in report cards (see above).