It’s that time of year again. The time when we’re thankful for cooler temperatures and vibrant autumn leaves. While you may be busy preparing for fall classroom activities, we’re here to remind you that it’s never too early to start planning for next year’s summer programs. Summer offers distinctive opportunities that are indispensable to an excellent education. According to RAND Education, “Research has shown that students’ skills and knowledge often deteriorate during the summer months. Instruction during the summer has the potential to stop these losses and propel students toward higher achievement.”
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together the latest research on the benefits of a STEM or STEAM summer curriculum and its advantages for every grade level. Also, we’ve included three exemplary summer STEM programs with strong outcomes as well as strategies to overcome technology challenges. So grab that pumpkin spiced latte and get ready to make next summer count by stopping the “summer slide.”
STEM Learning in Out-of-School Programs Provides Unique Advantages
One of the most significant advantages of offering a STEM or STEAM curriculum in out-of-school settings is that it directly affects what’s possible inside classrooms. A report by the National Research Council found evidence that STEM learning in out-of-school programs has been shown to:
- Contribute to young people’s interest in and understanding of STEM
- Connect young people to caring adults who serve as role models
- Reduce the achievement gap between young people from low-income and high-income families
The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) sums up the benefits with this conclusion, “Summer offers a unique opportunity for students to engage in STEM learning in ways that mirror real-world needs, while also drawing on the practices that make these STEM learning resources & activities most successful.”
Advantages at Every Grade Level
From little ones to teens, all grade levels can benefit from summer enrichment programs in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs highlights the advantages for kids of all ages.
- Elementary Students: Explore future careers, build self-confidence and get out of their comfort zones
- Middle School Students: Ease the transition to high school, catch up on STEM subjects, career development
- High School Students: Prepare for college, increase college admission chances, and improve social skills
Three Creative Uses of Technology in Summer STEM Programs
Technology can strengthen the activities offered by summer programs. Check out these examples of schools that incorporate technology to facilitate a hands-on, engaging, and most of all, fun experience!
- An Out of This World Hands-On Experience
The Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program is a five-week innovative program for middle school students. The curriculum is described as “truly out of this world” since it culminates in a tournament where students gather in teams to design code that to control a small satellite. “The best code is uploaded to the International Space Station where live astronauts judge a competition between the satellites programmed by students from around the country,” explains EdSource.
- Journey through Mathematics
In the summer following third grade, students lose 27% of their school-year grades in math. That number jumps to 50% by the summer after seventh grade. To counteract the loss of math proficiency, schools across Connecticut participate in the Connecticut Pre-Engineering Program (CPEP) Summer Math Gaming Challenge. “CPEP’s blended learning model integrates face-to-face teacher instruction with cutting-edge, games-based mathematics learning software to create an engaging, customized, and differentiated learning experience.” Challenges include creating a digitally animated ad using the Scratch programming language and applying principles of gravity, force, and structural integrity to create a package optimized for aerial drop-delivery.
- Opening up Infinite Career Opportunities for Young Women
Only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees vs. 17% of men. Recently there has been an increase in initiatives and out-of-school programs aiming to close the gender gap and inspire more women to choose STEM pathways. One such program is the all-girls Forensic Science Camp at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. This one-week program caters to students who are interested in forensic science. “Students arrive at a staged crime scene and must gather and analyze evidence to find a suspect. Using biology, chemistry, mathematics and deductive reasoning, campers study fingerprints, footprints, fiber and hair samples, and other evidence.”
Three Strategies to Overcome Technology Challenges
Introducing technology into school curriculum isn’t always easy. In a Research-to-Results brief on incorporating technology into out-of-school time programs, Child Trends identified three strategies to overcome challenges with integrating educational technology.
- Offer practical training and technical support on using technology, so staff members are equipped to integrate it into program activities
- Establish guidelines and role modeling for proper technology use
- Partner with schools and businesses to offset the costs of purchasing and maintaining technology
Share Your STEM Stories
Does your school or district offer summer enrichment with a STEM/STEAM curriculum? We’d love to share your stories so that other imaginative educators can gain inspiration from your successes. Drop us a message on Facebook, tweet us, or connect on LinkedIn and let us know how you stop the summer slide.