Choosing a summer in STEM: Boze students opt for learning

Summer is here and while most students view summer break as a time to relax and take a vacation from academic immersion, students from TAF’s transformation school Boze Elementary are opting to learn more in STEM.

About Boze

Boze Elementary of Tacoma Public Schools has been a partner school of TAF (Technology Access Foundation) for two years. Through the STEMbyTAF school transformation program, Boze educators and administrators are receiving support to transition into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) school that implements life-applicable project-based learning curriculum, infusion of corporate role models, industry experiences and a culture that all students are capable of achieving. The goal of transforming public schools is to eliminate race-based disparity in achievement and promote the highest level of learning so that students can realize their dreams – in STEM or not.

Despite the concerns that generally arise when creating a project-based curriculum where core subjects are interrelated but students must still meet district requirements and standards in testing, the numbers don’t lie. Boze test scores in math, language arts, and science have all improved from last year. Not only have grades improved across the school, but student and family engagement has improved as well. Student depth of knowledge was rated 96% by attending families of the school’s last winter exhibition.

Over the course of two years, students have learned to enjoy the learning process – from challenging norms to discovering and offering new ways to solve problems. They enjoy the learning process so much, that they’ve elected to attend two separate summer enrichment programs rooted in STEM.

Boze’s first STEAM summer program

This summer, forty-six third through fifth-grade students will expand their knowledge in STEAM through the first-ever STEAM Academy at Boze. It is a four-week, first-come, first serve opportunity extended to the school’s scholars that is being fully funded through Title 1 sponsorship.

In the program, students will select topics of interests, and then be assigned to courses accordingly. Topics range from using coding and robotics to design prototypes in order to address real-world problems and using Minecraft to teach new information to students, among other things. In July, students will take a field trip to MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry) donated through the MOHAI Scholarship Fund and will have an exhibition to demonstrate their knowledge on the STEAM Academy’s final day. Program organizers are also already preparing to take summer students to Seattle’s MiniMaker Faire later this year in September.

The summer program is an exciting addition to Boze, especially since corporate partners are getting involved in supporting making it happen. Robotics creator company Roboterra has donated 15 robotics kits and programming software to the program, while Cubit, a modular robotics hardware company with an emphasis on coding, has donated six kits. Also, to supplement the course exploring how optics and light change the way people see the world,  StemBox, a company that offers monthly delivery services for STEM experiments, has provided 25 optical kits to promote student exploration.

Boze students return to learn more

In addition to what’s happening on Boze’s campus, thirty rising fifth-grade girls will attend Alexa Cafe by iD Tech Camps at UW Seattle for a week in August. There,  they’ll learn basic javascript and 3D printing through the program’s “Coding and Wearable Technology” session. This will be the second year in a row that Boze students participated in the program, but this year, more have been afforded the chance to go. At the cost of $950 per seat, students and families have the Women’s Funding Alliance to thank for generously sponsoring the group. Because of their contribution and the need for transportation being sorted out, students will gain a new skill set and will have the same chance to share what they’ve learned during the summer with their classmates as the cohort before them.

It’s hard to think of young students being so motivated to sacrifice part of their otherwise “free” summer to continue learning, yet through the culture of learning the Boze teachers have created among their students, it’s not surprising. There were many other students that wanted to participate in these opportunities and we’re hoping that programs like Alexa Cafe and the STEAM Academy at Boze will be able to accommodate more students in the future.

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