At Step Up Academy’s summer STEM program, kids engage in problem solving through building and design challenges. In our program, we empower kids to see themselves as engineers and how they too can build solutions to model real-world problems. The design challenges the kids engage in create meaningful, hands-on learning experiences where they apply their STEM learning to solve a problem. Kids use their creativity, teamwork and decision making skills to solve problems in a fun and hands-on way. Through design challenges, children build many skills including problem solving, communication and critical thinking. First, the kids, usually in small groups are given a challenge that mimics a problem in society. The groups then work collaboratively to develop a solution to the given problem with the materials provided. The kids ensure their design meets the pre-set criteria and is able to withhold the testing. For example, in the summer camp STEM program in 2019, the kids had to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and masking tape. There was a certain distance the bridge had to span and the goal was to make it strong enough to hold the weight of multiple textbooks. The kids tested out their initial designs and made changes to improve the strength of their bridge. The goal was to build a bridge that could hold the most weight. Additionally, in the STEM program, the kids also engage in problem solving when building their final prototype to solve a problem they identify and build a solution that solves their identified problem. Through the process of building their protype, the kids must become engineers, which includes making adjustments and solving problems as they build. STEM activities such as design challenges promote independence in learning and create memorable experiences while providing a fun summer program for kids. STEM education provides many skills and experiences which are beneficial for children’s learning, thinking and creating.
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