Written by Emma Turi, Summer Fellow at Wheelock College Aspire Institute, Boston, MA.
I started my summer fellowship with Wheelock College Aspire Institute in June. Since I started here, I have had the opportunity to work in several different aspects of the organization. However, my focus has been on the promotion of the STEM Activity App. I never realized that STEM is actually everywhere. Anytime I question how something works, it’s related to STEM.
How would I define STEM? STEM is related to every living and non-living thing. Each activity that we share with our users falls under at least one, sometimes two and even something three of the 4 categories. Before this summer, I was not at all familiar with the term STEM, or its relationship to every child’s education both inside and outside of the classroom. More importantly, I did not fully realize the level which family engagement is essential to children’s learning success. Not only does family engagement support academic gains, increase motivation, and reduce behavioral issues, it also excites children about learning and a future in STEM careers. I know that my love of reading and writing grew from my parents’ love of both of those things.
So how can we help families excite their children about learning, and especially STEM? How can education around science, technology, engineering, and math be promoted and furthered both within schools and within our homes? These are the questions that the STEM Activity App was designed to answer. The STEM Activity App is a free, open-source tool created by the Wheelock Aspire Institute (“Aspire”) three years ago that provides families and teachers with the resources they need to help integrate STEM education into their everyday lives. Each of our activities incorporates themes pertaining to science, technology, engineering, or math, sometimes the activities draw upon several of these topics. Our activities also focus on building upon the inquiry and curiosity of the child instead of simply providing an instructional narrative.
This summer, Aspire launched a 6 week program which started on July 8th. Every week we release two wonderful activities. Since re-launching the project, more than 300 new users have signed up for the App, giving us almost 3000 users. Users span all grade levels and all 50 states and 12 countries. Our twitter following and emails have spiked as well. The feedback has been overwhelming: the STEM Activity App is being put to good use and in demand!
In the past five weeks I have had the opportunity to try a few of our STEM activities, and I have to say, while I am not a science, technology, engineering, or math person, they were really fun! But more than that, these activities led me to continue to ask more questions about why the results of the activities, and think about where can I see similar themes in the world around me. My favorite activity is the one that you create a tongue map to see where all your different types of taste buds are. I gathered four foods that would reflect the four flavor areas on my tongue—sweet, bitter, salty, and sour. I picked sugar for sweet, coffee for bitter, salt for salty and lemon juice for sour. I found that I could recognize these flavors easier on different portions of my tongue. For example, on the back of my tongue the bitter taste was more potent and the sugar flavor was stronger on the tip of tongue.
While studying history in college, I have learned to make connections between events, mentalities, and reactions. For me, one of the most interesting things about doing these activities is that it allows me to connect to the results to the world around me. For example, maybe we lick ice cream cones because our sweet taste buds are on the tip our tongues. I hope that everyone who uses the STEM Activity App enjoys this resource as much as I do!
We have had a lot of great feedback from our users about our activities. Many parents have been able to use the activities for many different age groups spanning from PreK all the way up to High School just by making simple adjustments to our original activities. Many teachers are also using this resource as a way to get activity ideas for their classroom. We have printable handouts available upon request as well, that teachers are giving their students as activities to go home and do with their parents. This free resource has been used in so many ways to fit the needs of the families and the teachers.
Just a few testimonials from our users:
* Thank you all for sending these great ideas that I have loved experiencing with my K-3 students as well as with my grandchildren. What a wonderful thing you are doing for all of our young budding scientists out there. St. John’s School, Houston, Texas
* You all did a terrific job on this app. I will continue to share it through Community & Family Engagement opportunities as well as with our staff. Weymouth Public Schools
* Keep ‘em coming! St Mary’s, Lynn, MA
So join the fun this summer! Sign up for the STEM Activity App, support your child’s STEM interest and knowledge, and learn a little more yourself! You can sign up at http://stem-app.wheelock.edu/signup. Please pass this information and free resource along to people in your community; friends, family, and neighbors. We are also holding a Photo Contest – if you enter your photos on Instagram or Twitter with #FightTheSlide you will be put into a raffle to win a Genius Box! For curious young minds, Genius Box delivers a monthly STEM adventure (science, technology, engineering, and math) right to your door packed with projects and learning opportunities, geared towards 8-11 year olds.
Have a great summer – and for those using the STEM Activity App – Happy Exploring!
Emma is a rising senior at the College of the Holy Cross. She is pursuing a double major in History and Spanish. After spending her junior year in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, she is delighted to be back in the United States and working with the Aspire Institute. Emma is interested in working with children, education, and the social sector. Her hobbies include reading lots of fiction books and baking in her spare time.
 Flickr “Woman with Child”
 Flickr “Girl with Airplane”