Program Profile: America SCORES Blends Hands on Science, Soccer and Poetry to Create Whole Student Athletes

america-scores-soccer-photo-by-asIntegrating athletics, creative writing, arts, community service and STEM experiences, America SCORES provides students with opportunities to express themselves, collaborate with others, and engage in a healthy active lifestyle. Through this BoSTEM program, students work to build confidence and leadership skills while strengthening their abilities in math and writing and developing a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle.

“Our overall goal is to create a student athlete, student being first. We want students to be active throughout their lives, to be creative, and to be able to live healthy and make healthy choices, whether it’s healthy nutrition, healthy relationships, or healthy choices when they are out in the community,” says Ive Mendoza, Program Director at America SCORES.

This summer, America SCORES expanded the scope of its programming through the inclusion of hands-on STEM curriculum in partnership with i2. In addition to the traditional America SCORES soccer and poetry curriculum, students in the America SCORES summer program at the Trotter School this year participated in Lego Robotics activities and made ice cream as a part of an Ice Cream Engineering unit.

america-scores-2“For us it felt like a natural fit,” says Program Director Mendoza. “We chose Ice Cream Engineering and Lego Robotics, and it seemed like the kids got along with it really well. We were intentional in picking activities we thought our kids would love, and they didn’t seem to mind the three hours a day we spent on it. Everyone was engaged.”

During the Ice Cream Engineering unit, students developed and tested different ice cream making processes in order to identify the best way to make ice cream. The curriculum, written by the Museum of Science, uses ice cream making as a vehicle to engage students in an iterative process of designing and testing solutions. Rather than simply following the steps to make ice cream, during this STEM experience America SCORES students created the steps for themselves, evaluating and adjusting their thinking in order to improve their ice cream and solidify their ice cream making process.

During the Lego Robotics unit, students built and programmed their own autonomous robots. The unit began with students building a robot from a set of instructions in order to learn about sensors, gear boxes, gear ratios, and programming basics. After this initial build, students built and programmed their own robots to complete various tasks like climbing an incline and navigating based on light and sound, authentically engaging in engineering practices by designing, testing, and redesigning robots based on test results. During this unit students also learned about open source software and design, encouraging collaboration and the sharing of ideas between students. The unit culminated in a “Sumo Challenge,” in which students’ robots battled against one another in a sumo style ring.

america-scores-1Following mornings filled with hands-on STEM learning experiences, students in the America SCORES summer program transitioned into afternoon activities that are hallmarks of the America SCORES program: creative writing workshops and athletics.

This summer America SCORES experimented with linking afternoon creative writing activities to the hands-on STEM projects students participated in earlier in the day. During these writing activities, students were given the opportunity to view their science and technology projects through a different lens, designing advertisements for their Lego robots and making comics about what it means to be a “maker.”

Of course, afternoons in this summer program are also full of sports, a major focus of America SCORES programming.

“Athletics is the primary pull for a lot of our kids, and they can be very, very expensive for families. It’s a huge commitment for them,” says Program Director Mendoza.

america-scores-3 America SCORES uses the skills and lessons learned through sports to tie together all of its youth experiences. In America SCORES programs, students develop a sense of belonging and responsibility through team sports. These skills allow students to feel free finding their voices through creative writing and to feel confident collaborating on math and science projects. The collective responsibility taught through team sports is reinforced through social entrepreneurship and service projects directed towards the students’ own communities during the school year. Sports also allow America SCORES to teach social-emotional skills, such as resilience and perseverance, which are necessary for students to succeed academically.

With athletics providing a framework, America SCORES is able to offer a variety of experiences to its students while maintaining focus and an understanding of the skills it hopes to breed in its students.

“We want America SCORES participants to be able to seek opportunities that usually they wouldn’t be able to get throughout the school year,” says Mendoza. “We want to develop children to be global citizens. We take the whole-child approach and try to offer a lot of different experiences.”