SJSIP ecosystem leader, Liz Rodriguez, shares how the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century program is getting high school students excited about STEM.
The Nita M. Lowey 21st CCLC program with an emphasis on STEM learning has been running at Pennsauken High School for the past 6 years. During that time, we’ve learned a lot about STEM and how to get young people excited about it. STEM is not a silo of individual disciplines where you are either a STEM oriented person or you are not. If want to make a room look comfortable or pleasing to your eye, you will be using the skills of spatial analysis and measurements whether you’re aware of them or not. Luckily we have been able to increase the understanding of STEM and hopefully spark the kind of curiosity in the students that can lead them to better academic achievement and sustainable careers. Everyday there are opportunities to show the students how STEM is all around them and not just in their science or math classrooms. We’ve been able to maintain a steady stream of students who join and stay in the program because of the activities we offer.
Recently we had a visit from one of partners, Tyler Hines, who is a former NBA and European league player. Tyler has returned to his home area of South Jersey to work with students to support STEM learning and share his experiences to motivate young people to stay in school, work hard and be goal oriented. Tyler does this using basketball exercises that showcase the STEM sciences such as Physics and Mathematics. Tyler’s exercises show that the understanding of these STEM skills helps with the preparation for the physical tasks. The students love working with Tyler. His kindness and fun spirit immediately got the students to look forward to every visit.
Tyler visited our program on January 27th. I knew that he would be down because of the tragic death of Kobe Bryant the day before. He still came to the program. The students instinctively knew that he needed some TLC. To see them embrace Tyler and bring a smile to his face, reminded me of the power of connection, and the emotional growth that is a natural byproduct of giving kids the right environment to learn and grow both emotionally and intellectually. Tyler worked with the kids on distance and free throws. They practiced shooting. They dribbled 2 balls at one time in a team activity. All the while they learned the principles of physics in basketball and had a whole lot of fun. He taught them confidence, no matter their skill level and he made them feel important. But what struck me is that the students comforted an adult. They showed compassion towards him that reminded me why this work is so important. We give a lot to the kids in our day to day jobs. And then they return the favor. Isn’t that a STEM principle? Calling Dr Newton….