Over the past few months while doing my work and investigating the landscape of after school programs in Cambridge, I’ve come across some excellent examples of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) focused programs. I thought I would use this weeks blog to highlight some of those programs, and share some insight of what’s going on in Cambridge.
The first program I’d like to talk about is the Minecraft classes at the Cambridge Community Center. For those of you not familiar, Minecraft is a computer game that allows students to deconstruct the world around them, process the materials they gather, and build any kind of structure their mind can imagine. For example students can spend time building their own dream house, or a whole cities worth of buildings.
One of the things I like most about this class is that it introduces many concepts of engineering to students at a very young age. Think of it like old school block play with a modern twist. Also what’s great about using Minecraft as an education tool is since so many students love playing the game on their own time, it’s easy to have them spend time playing with an educational focus.
The Minecraft class at the CCC is taught by Connie Cann, who speaks in more detail about the class here.
The second program I want to mention, the Makerspace at the Kennedy Longfellow school, is not specifically focused in afterschool per say, but offers a wealth of curriculum that other programs could model. The Makerspace at K-LO was built in collaboration with Lesley University and focuses on introducing students in the school to computer science, robotics, and engineering lessons.
What’s really awesome about the work being done at the K-LO Makerspace is they do such a great job of making it accessible to teachers. They’ve created easy to understand lesson plans like this one here about using scratch to teach students how to use maps to learn about the neighborhood around them. By making these lesson plans open to the community, the K-LO Makerspace gives afterschool teachers an opportunity to include S.T.E.A.M. related lessons to their programs and students.
You can read more about the program led by Sue Cusack, Anne Larson, Kreg Hanning, and Jacy Edelman, and what it offers here.
Finally I wanted to write about the Possible Project. The Possible Project is an after school program aimed at high school that works on teaching them entrepreneurship and business skills by having them create their own businesses.
While the age of students involved with the Possible Project is a little bit older then the students of my work, it serves as a wonderful model of how to think outside of the box with programming. Introducing students to the concept of starting a business is a great way to teach kids the importance of creating a budget. And even though a lot of the businesses that are created at the Possible Project may be difficult for younger kids to think of, there might be a way to scale down the model to work with younger children.
Here is an article that highlights the Possible Projects recent maker space that just opened.
I should note that what I’m writing about here just scratches the surface on what is going on in the city, and In the upcoming months I plan on writing similar blog posts to this to help share all of the amazing offerings in the city.