New York City’s public school students return to school today. While their parents have spent the weekend stocking their kids’ backpacks with new pencil cases and notebooks, let’s hope their teachers have stocked their classrooms with toothpicks, cork, coins, and other everyday materials. The reason is simple: These materials can be used in hands-on experiments that encourage trial and error and the application of complex concepts. That’s the right way to teach STEM to tomorrow’s leaders, and it needs to be an integral part of schools and after-school programs—especially those that primarily serve BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and low-income students, and other groups typically underrepresented in STEM fields.
“All the boys wanted to build websites about sneakers and basketball,” laughs Adrianna Rodriguez, a youth counselor and tech whiz, who recently taught a class on computer coding at our Parsons Beacon Center.
While sneakers might have gotten the kids interested in making a website, only hard work made it happen. “Coding really
taught them attention to detail,” said Adrianna, an undergraduate at Devry University, who grew up in Jamaica, Queens. “If one line was messed up, the whole thing wouldn’t work.”
Seeing the end result got them hooked. Continue reading