Program Profile: Technology and Skill Building Come Alive at Dearborn STEM/Empow Studios Summer Learning Program

Several students scurry to the front of the classroom and quickly huddle in awe, as they watch a 3D printer begin to zig zag and build a student’s design of a keychain. Such enthusiasm is common at the Dearborn STEM AcademyEmpow Studios’ Summer Learning Academy site, where 50 incoming 6th– 8th graders are immersed in computer science, STEM, ELA, and math courses this summer. This is one of 31 Summer Learning Academy sites developed in collaboration with Boston Public Schools and Boston After School & Beyond to stem summer learning loss.

Traditional school may be adjourned, but the hallways bustle with footsteps and excitement on a recent day at the Dearborn STEM Academy, where Dearborn students eagerly transition among academic courses and hands-on enrichment classes. To complement traditional courses led by Dearborn teachers, Empow Studios leads five weekly modules for students to integrate academic knowledge into hands-on STEM: robotics, video game design, coding, animation, and 3-D design and printing.

“Students come here every day ready and very eager to learn,” said Dearborn guidance counselor Mina DePina, who coordinates the summer site.

The Empow Studios collaboration is a perfect fit for the school’s focus on STEM programming and helps students meaningfully apply academic  content to hands-on learning. Two high school peer leaders assist students in the Empow modules and instructors intentionally challenge students to work in teams and support each other. This instructional strategy reinforces the site’s focus on four skills for which students can earn badges over the summer: critical thinking, communication, perseverance, and teamwork.

“Technology is the new literacy,” said Leonid Tunik, Founder & CEO of Empow Studios. “Working together and using technical tools, students can overcome common barriers to technology, like fear of failure or an intimidating learning curve.”

By the end of the five-week program, students will have built autonomous robots, designed a video game, and created an animated video. And they’ll re-enter the Dearborn in September with deeper friendships, a robust technology skill set, and increased confidence for the next academic year.

Photo credit: David Gutierrez, Empow Studios