STEM in the City is a summer program at Wheelock College for rising 8th and 9th grade students. Students participate in a variety of STEM-related activities, and are better prepared for college through exposure to the college environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Students can learn valuable information from the experiences of current professionals.

  • STEM learning can be integrated into a broad range of activities.

  • College readiness includes familiarity with college campuses.

  • Small group activities are good for providing individualized attention and making projects more hands-on.

Q: Can you speak about the variety of activities your program offers to youth?

A: Essentially, we have broad themes for each week (e.g., health and environmental sciences is one week) in which we integrate field trips and classroom activities. Using this broad umbrella, we are able to incorporate a variety of STEM disciplines. For example, we visit the Emergency Department at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where we learn from health professionals about health careers, cardiac anatomy and physiology, and how to measure blood pressure. We then follow up this field trip with the students’ designing an investigation about what may impact blood pressure. They develop questions, hypotheses and predictions; collect data; analyze and present their findings to their peers. By using broad themes and integrating STEM fields throughout these themes, students may connect with a prior discipline of interest but are also exposed to others that they may not have considered.

 

We also have a college access and readiness component. By hosting this camp at Wheelock College, and having it led by college faculty, staff, and college students (in addition to middle school and high school teachers), we expose students to the collegiate environment. We supplement this experience with trips to other universities so that students will be exposed to a variety of campuses. We want students to begin to picture the possibility of attending college themselves.

Q: How do you balance different kinds of activities within your program?

A: Current literature suggests that students have become engaged (or disengaged for that matter) by the time they reach middle school (and even earlier). By reviewing summer programming throughout the Boston area, we realized that the majority of STEM camps have a specific focus area (e.g., robotics). Therefore, we specifically designed this camp with the idea of providing an environment to expose students and excite them about a variety of STEM disciplines, careers, and college access.

Q: What does it look like when children work in groups or otherwise collaborate in your program?

A: Our camp is built on students collaborating with one another. We divide our campers into “research teams”, led by a college counselor, as they design investigations, explore different STEM and collegiate environments to reinforce the idea that success in STEM is built on teamwork. We also feel that students gain more personal attention when they’re broken down  into smaller groups and have opportunities to engage in hands-on activities.

 

STEM in the City is an innovative annual summer camp featuring excursions to Boston-area companies, organizations, or field sites that highlight a variety of STEM disciplines, and a related classroom lab activity led by Wheelock College math and science faculty and staff and additional STEM professionals. During the camp students explore a variety of STEM-related careers and the educational pathways needed to attain those careers, and they are introduced to college life and academics. Campers also have the opportunity to participate in discussions with college students, faculty, and staff. Home base for STEM in the City Summer Camp is the Department of Mathematics and Science on Wheelock College’s Boston campus.