The 2016 legislative sessions in the states have raised many new opportunities for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning during the summer months.
Three major themes are emerging in state policy supporting STEM education during the summer months.
Programs that extend STEM learning beyond the classroom, in partnership with schools.These bills recognize that many schools have limited capacity to expand and deepen education experiences on their own. Partnership with community-based programs that are structured and goal-oriented has many benefits. Expanding learning beyond the classroom ensures students have the time to delve deeply in to topics of interest, expands the pool of resources available for education, and sustains student learning after the school day ends.
Example: Virginia SB17 would create a STEM Education Fund and grant program to be administered by the Board of Education. Community-based, nonprofit organizations with expertise in STEM programming would apply for grants up to $50,000 to partner with schools to expand STEM programming for students. These programs can include “summer school activities focusing on STEM education, regardless of whether such activities are held at the school or at a remote location.”
Programs that capitalize on the unique summer time space to provide hands-on STEM experiences in the natural environment. These bills recognize that states and communities have already invested in natural resources and learning centers that become a focal point for learning and family engagement during the summer months. By boosting resources for these spaces to deepen their educational offerings, the public sees a greater return on the investments and students are kept productively engaged in learning year-round.
Example: Minnesota HF2583 would provide a grant of $50,000 to the Headwaters Science Center “for hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education” at this northern Minnesota science museum.
Mentoring and workforce training programs meant to support development of a pipeline for students into STEM-focused higher education and careers. These programs utilize resources beyond the school community to develop the state’s STEM-ready workforce, starting as early as middle school. They often involve STEM professionals who can mentor and guide students’ STEM learning and career pathways.
Example: New Mexico HB245 would appropriate $350,000 to the University of New Mexico “to fund an ongoing pre-college minority students program that increases knowledge and skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics and health sciences and provides career exploration summer camps.”
Example: Washington SB5303 would create the Washington academic, innovation and mentoring (AIM) program, supporting community-based programs that provide mentoring around STEM and career exploration, outside of school hours. Programs would be statewide and targeted to middle and high school students who are eligible for free- and reduced-priced lunch. A minimum of 30 hours per week is required for summer programming.