Expanding your after school programs to include science, tech and math experts is the smartest route districts can embark upon today. Today’s after school programs need to include fun and functional STEM concepts and themes in order to facilitate academic development in science and math.
Students who know how computer code works and how it can integrate with the Internet of Things, like Amazon Echo and smart-home hubs, will have leg up in this competitive, connected world. Packing regular curriculum with enough science and math is a good first step, but bringing together the practical and theoretical in an enrichment environment is essential.
Flex Academies partners with many vendors that offer robotics classes, computer science intro programs, web design courses and the fun stuff, too: LEGO engineering and Minecraft-based instruction. Bringing these into a district’s slate of after school programs is a smart way to supplement traditional school day STEM classes.
Most parents know LEGOs as the bane of their existence when traveling through a darkened house in bare feet. But the little Danish plastic blocks can be a student’s entry into engineering, with the proper instruction. Flex vendors that offer building classes with LEGOs can explore physics, architecture and structural concepts through concentrated play. Kids can work individually or in groups to build complex structures and then test or modify them, with instructor assistance.
The benefits of the popular modular online game extend throughout much of a student’s development. Creative problem solving, similarity to computer program building and cooperative behavior in teams playing Minecraft can provide benefits in many subjects. Educators are already working out ways to use the video game in classrooms, with an emphasis on critical thinking and teamwork.
LEGOs are not just for building static structures. Some Flex vendors use the company’s EV3 robotics platform to introduce young minds to creating actual, semi-autonomous robots. Kids build robots that move independently, respond to external stimuli and learn, based on what they encounter. And the kids use mechanical engineering techniques, combined with partner software that helps program the bots. That combines the physical world with a digital platform, which is excellent preparation for the future work world, as well as a skill builder for academic development.
Possibly the most dramatic current trend in merging computers and physical reality is 3D printing. Seeing a design on the screen and watching it being printed into a real object can be an inspiring experience for impressionable students. Vendors with 3-D printing and modeling after school programs can provide expertise and instruction in designing objects on CAD-style software and operating a 3D printer to bring them into existence.