“I learned so much my first year and I can’t wait to see what’s next!”

 In #TAFLab

One of the pleasures of my job is to gather and read feedback on the TechStart program directly from current and former students. As part of our application process for the TechStart after school program, we request that students complete a brief essay on the topic, “Why I want to be in TechStart.” Since our applicants range from 1st grade through 8th, or about ages 6 to 13, their essays vary greatly in length, legibility, and organization.

What they share is a sense of excitement about the upcoming year of hands-on, project-based learning that students recognize will help them unlock a bright future.

Here’s a sample from a 5th grade student who’s new to the program, written this summer before he had even experienced TechStart:

“Doing robotics and learning new things sounds awesome. That’s why I want to be in TechStart.” [Efrain, Southern Heights Elementary]

Returning students’ essays not only demonstrate excitement about the new year (and offer a vote of confidence in TAF, by their very choice to come back to the elective program), but supply us with an informal appraisal of last year’s program. Here are a couple more 5th grade students, who both first joined TechStart a year ago:

“TechStart is a great program for students to get in and I would love to be in it again this year. It had taught me a lot of new things. Learning new things together with my other classmates is something I enjoy… We learn[ed] a lot from programming to robotics. We learn[ed] and discover[ed] new things through our research and projects. It sure is a good brain work out!” [Barby, Southern Heights Elementary]

“I want to return to TechStart this year because I had a lot of fun working with other students and learning about programs such as Alice and Scratch.” [Kristina, Hilltop Elementary]

A remarkable, recurring theme among the application essays is an awareness that the STEM learning the students are gaining at TechStart can be applied in other areas of their lives—and can even empower them to help others:

“I have a lot of interest in computer programs and want to join TechStart because it will give me an opportunity to learn. Technology is now a big part of our lives and being in TechStart will give me better opportunities to help people in my community.” [Nicole, 6th grade, Beverly Park Elementary]

“I learned so much and I hope to gain more skills to help my family with computer problems and be able to explain to them about how certain programs work.” [Caroline, 6th grade, Hilltop Elementary]

“I was in TechStart last year and I liked it very much. Math is my favorite subject and it helped me boost my interest further.” [Sagar, 5th grade, Mount View Elementary]

“I hope to be in TechStart again because I want to learn more about computers as I hope to be a computer engineer one day. This is my second year here so I’ll be happy to help students that are new to TechStart.” [Gabriel, 5th grade, Hilltop Elementary]

I love that the last student’s insight went in two directions: he’s ready now to help his peers, and he’s looking forward to a future in a STEM career!

It’s a particular joy to read the feedback from returning 2nd graders, our youngest TechStart “old hands”:

“I am happy to come back my second year. I learned so much my first year and I can’t wait to see what’s next!” [Talaiya, 2nd grade, Genesee Learning Space]

“The reason I want to go [back] to TechStart is that it’s fun!” [William, 2nd grade, Genesee Learning Space]

Reading them all at once, it’s, well, fun to see that the “fun” continues through the older grades: A 6th grade student at Beverly Park Elementary, now in her third year in TechStart, was able to put this aspect in thoughtful perspective:

TechStart is not just about hard work, it’s about doing what you love and having tons of fun with what you’re doing.” [Keishliany]

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