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Stoking STEM Interest in Middle-School Learners

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Peekskill Middle School students demonstrate their websites during a Women In Technology (WIT) workshop

Peekskill Middle School students demonstrate their websites during a Women In Technology (WIT) workshop

How do you get students’ involved in their own learning and thinking of the endless possibilities of a career in the STEM field? For the past four years, Peekskill Middle School has been selected as one of the four schools to have eight female students attend the IBM Girls Go TechKnow Camp. The goal of the camp is to introduce young females to the fields of science and engineering in a fun and nurturing environment. The girls participate in a four day-long Lego-robotics design project, as well as a variety of other hands-on, team-building science projects with IBM professionals.

Examples of the many projects that  the students have completed are: extracting the DNA from a strawberry, designing a web page, building bridges to hold cans using string and popsicle sticks, making ice cream using nitrogen oxide, and getting an egg in and out of a bottle. The camp’s impact goes beyond the projects the students have completed. It has offered the students an experience and memories that will last a lifetime.

Students enter the program with their fellow school classmates and leave as one unified team of students from many different schools. They work together, laugh, talk and dream of their future together as one unified group. It has opened their eyes to STEM and brought fun into learning. The students were asked what their favorite aspects of Girls Go TechKnow Camp were and the students comments included “making new friends,” along with getting DNA from a strawberry, learning about states of matter, working with liquid nitrogen, and making the pulley and bridge. The statements are endless.

The success of the program is reflected by the students’ feeling of their own success. Students have exclaimed that they “never thought [they] could do this,” and have asked to share projects with fellow classmates as a “fun activity.” The students have shown a new excitement for science and math during school. Some have even voiced they want to possibly pursue a career in STEM.

IBM has shown its commitment to improving STEM education at Peekskill Middle School. Thanks to the many volunteers from IBM, we have offered Web Design workshops during the school year, had speakers at our Career Day, and have been awarded money for robotic equipment, books, and a response system to help us in our quest to improve our programs.

This year, we had our first opportunity to send eight boys to the Boys Go TechKnow Camp. The boys are excited to attend and be part of this wonderful opportunity. The staff of Peekskill Middle School are looking forward to having more students share their experiences and excitement of learning.

Dr. June Campolongo is the Principal of Peekskill Middle School in Westchester County, New York. IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs Manager Mary Murray and IBM North America IT Strategy & Transformation COO Sarena Meyer facilitated Peekskill Middle School’s participation in the Girls Go TechKnow and Boys Go TechKnow Camps.

Related Resources:

Girls Attend Go TechKnow Camp at IBM Research

Attracting Kids to AP Computer Science

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