Outreach teams get creative with online STEM programs

Posted on May 22, 2020

The Faculty’s outreach teams are finding enthusiastic audiences for their online programs, which are giving students at home opportunities to virtually participate in fun STEM activities, and teachers much-needed resources for keeping young minds engaged.

[Illustration of girl & boy doing STEM activities. By Peggy Collins]

Aboriginal Access to Engineering (AAE) currently works with Indigenous students and their teachers at Six Nations, Tyendinaga and Akwesasne, as well as with local Indigenous family networks through the Limestone District School Board, providing hands-on outreach to students in all elementary grades. This includes ongoing in-classroom support, as well as teacher training, designed to align with the math and science curriculum.

[young boy stacking books on floor]
An InSTEM@home participant builds and tests paper columns in week two of the series of engineering design challenges.

The team has now launched InSTEM@home, an online program that features content they have developed for their partner schools. Running until the end of June, the program lets children in grades 1 to 8 to participate in weekly design challenges, using common household materials, and to share those creations back with the instructional team for a chance to win weekly prizes. Guest appearances by Indigenous engineers will also help relate content to the "real world" of engineering.

Parents can enroll their children even if they aren’t a student at one of AAE’s First Nation partner schools.

Connections provides a wide range of outreach programs, both on and off-campus. Along with the ‘Tech and Tinker’ trailer, a mobile engineering classroom that visits local schools, the Connections team runs a number of programs for students of all ages, including STEM workshops and clubs for girls, and a Summer Engineering Academy. They also provide valuable training for teacher candidates in the Faculty of Education.

In early May, the Connections team reached out to school contacts to offer them support while transitioning their students to online learning. The response was overwhelmingly positive and resources were sent out to 100 teachers in the Kingston area, who have since shared videos of completed student work.

The team will also be delivering workshops for 200 Faculty of Education students in June, and is planning out a remote version of their Summer Engineering Academy, designed for students in grades 4–11.