STEM Saturdays are another way to get some great exposure to different areas in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math fields. There are many free programs offered at local area libraries and colleges (some do charge a fee as well).
Last weekend, we enjoyed a wonderful presentation at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington. Welcome to the Jungle was a presentation on life in the Jungle with a focus on Chimpanzees. The presentation included real life experiences of a biologist whom studies Chimpanzees in their natural habitat. We learned how to make a hoot calls, how to identify chimpanzees from each other, the similarities with humans, the jungle environment, and that you need be careful when using a machete to cut a path because the if you cut the wrong branch a cobra might just drop on you! The STEM Saturday programs at Lincoln Laboratories are free and are open to those ages 5-17, though I find the presentations we have been to seem to be geared towards elementary and early middle school. The program is run every two months during the school year and pre-registration is required.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester offers a STEM Saturdays program for middle school students which is held once a month from November - April. The classes are half day and there is a cost of $180. Parents are required to attend and there are programs geared towards them while their students work on hands-on projects. I previously attended presentations on admissions, financial aid, engineering and speaker sessions.
If you're luck enough to live in one of the towns (Boston, Cambridge or Lawrence) that are supported by MIT's SEED Academy they offer a great opportunity for 7th through 10th graders. This free program offers an opportunity to explore engineering fields.
Don't forget to check out your local libraries as many also offer STEM programs as well!
Fall in New England means the cool crisp air, the vibrant colors of the leaves, pumpkins and the smell of apple pie. For us, fall is a busy time, it's time for SPLASH! No sleeping in late on the weekends, from mid-October through November we are up early, hopping in the car or on a train to get to one of the New England colleges that offer SPLASH (they are offered all over the country).
Why do we do this? My son loves it! SPLASH programs are run by university students to engage middle and high school students in the learning process. Several of the programs are free, the rest are low cost and most of the ones that charge a fee also offer financial aid in order to make the programs accessible to anyone interested. There are so many classes to choose from and they are on anything and everything! Want to Learn the History of Video Games, the Morality of Fictional Characters, Fractal Geometry through Tree Sculptures, Economics Makes Cents or even how to solve a Rubic’s Cube? SPLASH programs offer opportunities to get exposure to topics students may not otherwise have the opportunity. Student may even get an unexpected surprise, such as my son did when he realized Hacking the Mind Through Medication isn’t a computer science class (oops!).
Unfortunately, due to the short season, many of the colleges have SPLASH programs on the same day. This year we struggled since Amherst College and Yale University both were offering their program on November 5th. (You can see a calendar of events on my web page) We have been to both programs before and they were excellent. My son needed to compare their course catalogs to review this fall’s offerings and pick one of them (parents are not allowed to select courses for their student as the goal is student engagement). Again, for November 13th he had to choose between Clark University and Boston College. Luckily, most schools offer SPLASH each year, in both the fall and the spring, so the ones he didn’t make it to this time he can participate in the spring.
What is a parent to do while their kids spend the day in classes? Several of the colleges offer parent programs where you can take a sample SPLASH class (regular SPLASH classes are only for students), learn about the college admissions process or get educated on the financial aid process (scary for many of us). You can take a college campus tour (you may want to pre-register for these). Several of the colleges have interesting things to do around them. When visiting Yale, you can explore Yale Museum (free admission) and the schools beautiful architecture (if you’re a photographer you probably want to bring a camera). Northeastern is next to the Museum of Fine arts and Fenway Park. If you’re at MIT, you can walk or take the T over to Faneuil Hall and take a free tour offered through the National Park Service or explore Kendall Square or Newbury Street. Fall festivals may be happening when you’re visiting Amherst College. If you’re not adventurous, there are always places to sit down with a good book or work on your computer.
If you haven’t tried SPLASH I encourage you to do so!
“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” – Karen Ravn
Over the years, we have done many STEM programs including Lego Robotics, Electronic Circuits, Science kits and all kinds of cool stuff but it was the SPARK & SPLASH programs that really got my son's juices flowing. Through a friend we heard about a program, for 7th & 8th graders, held in the spring at MIT called SPARK. Most classes are run by MIT students for students. What better scenario? Kids get to spend time on a college campus, take classes on anything and everything and are being taught by young people that they can relate to. Want to learn how to make slime? There's a class for that. Want to discuss the morality of fictional characters? There's a class for that. Want to learn about game theory? There's a class for that. Want to learn How to Get Rich, there's a class for that too!
SPARK and SPLASH classes are held at colleges all over the country with the purpose of fostering the love of learning in young students. Parents can't select the class, the student chooses what is of interest to them. Classes are often offered in the Spring and the Fall. Some programs are free and others are offered at a very low cost ($40 or under), several offer full financial aid so that anyone interested is able to attend.
This fall will be the first time my younger son attends his first SPLASH program. It was hard to choose which classes because there were so many that interested him. Let's see if we have another SPLASH Maniac on our hands!
Why STEM Advocates you might wonder? I am a mother of 2 amazing boys who are smart and curious. I am driven to seek out opportunities that will continue to engage and challenge them. These opportunities can be hard and time consuming to find but it has been absolutely worth it, my boys have had some amazing experiences. I want to be able to share information and resources with other parents and educators so that their children are able to easily find opportunities that will help fulfill their own curiosities. I hope you "Like" & Follow my Facebook page @STEMAdvocates, "follow" my Twitter @STEMAdvocates, and visit my webpage as we continue to evolve!
Debbi - Proud mom of two beautiful boys and an IT Professional.