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Why Summer STEM?
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High-quality summer learning programs have been shown not only to improve reading and math skills, but to increase graduation rates and post-secondary success as well. STEM summer programs, specifically, offer a unique and multi-faceted opportunity to maintain and build core skills in math and literacy during the high-risk summer months while engaging young people in hands-on, inquiry-based learning that motivates and engages. According to the National Research Council, many students are not graduating from high school with the knowledge and capacities they will need to pursue STEM careers or understand STEM-related issues in the workforce or in their roles as citizens.

With a tremendous gap in our skilled workforce pipeline, it has never been more important to provide meaningful summer learning opportunities that expose young people to courses of study, mentors and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Still, despite a convincing body of research, only about 1/3 of young people nationally are enrolled in a summer learning program. Most school districts serve fewer than 10 percent of their students during these critical months. There is work to do to promote uptake of proven practices and models of STEM summer learning at scale.

Policy efforts for STEM learning in out-of-school time should reflect the advantages that summer offers for effective STEM programs and efficient use of state and local resources.

  • Time and intensity: The summer learning space offers unique opportunities for students and teachers to concentrate deeply on an area of interest, with greater intensity and with resources often not available during the school year. Youth have more flexibility to choose a topic of exploration, such as robotics, environmental science, computer programming, game design, or biotechnology that stems from their personal interests and fosters deeper commitment and engagement. Students spend a concentrated amount of time, usually 5-6 weeks, taking a deep dive into their topic of choice, stimulating their enthusiasm about learning that carries into the school year.

    The summer learning space allows educators to develop and deliver concentrated curriculum covering a particular project or area of study, with lower stakes and greater flexibility in curriculum design and execution. Teachers use the summer to cover topics about which they are personally passionate, and to hone their own teaching.

  • Variety of experiences: Summer STEM activities happen in many places: summer school classrooms, libraries, community-based programs, museums and recreation centers. For older youth, summer provides a focused opportunity for connection to career exploration in STEM fields. Each unique setting brings different STEM-related resources, and partnership between them is common during the summer months.


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