I was recently invited to participate in a project highlighting the myriad of ways non-profit organizations contribute to education. This is a topic that is near and dear to me as I have worked for several educational non-profits. I'd like to highlight here some large organizations that are contributing to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning through school and extracurricular programming in addition to smaller organizations that provide educational programming in addition to summer opportunities for families.
Many organizations have initiatives that provide science opportunities for students who may not have support in this area elsewhere. Engaging students in STEM is vital in assuring a future of innovators and problem-solvers.
STEM in the Non-Profit World
Jr. Tech is a Massachusetts based organization with a mission to "engage 4 – 12 grade students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education." They support their mission by providing summer workshops in STEM topics. Some of this summer's upcoming offerings are: "Animation Creation" and "Simple Machines for Kids". In addition to these workshops Jr. Tech runs an annual Girls STEM Summit for ladies in grades 8-12 who have an interest in pursuing STEM degrees in college and careers in STEM fields.
Change the Equation is an organization who is working to assure that all students are STEM literate. They collaborate with schools and businesses to help implement STEM policies and programs. Change the Equation's STEMworks site is an incredible resources for STEM programs, from camps to educational workshops and school outreach programs. Whether you are a educator or a parent looking for programming for your child this resource is not to be missed!
Science and Nature for Summer (and beyond!)
Many organizations supporting the sciences through school programs also have incredible programming for families and summer camps for kids during the summer months. Additionally, science museums and nature centers provide opportunities you may not have at home or school- such as experiences up close to wildlife, access to experts, viewing of artifacts, etc.
The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (SLNSC) in Holderness, NH has been advancing the understanding of ecology for almost 50 years. School field trips and summer programs at this nature center as a child were influential in fostering my love of ecology. Their intern program set me on the path of science education. Throughout the school year SLNSC provides wildlife and ecology programming for local schools at schools and on-site. During the summer the center is alive when visitors come to view wildlife on the exhibit trail, enjoy educational lake cruises, participate in week-long summer guided discoveries for kids and much, much more. It is a must-visit location for summer fun and learning.
IslandWood on Bainbridge Island, WA provides outdoor, environment and leadership programming for adults and children through their many programs. Their Student Overnight Program brings students from the Seattle area, many who might not have had experiences in nature before, to the center for a magical learning experience. Their graduate program educates those interested in teaching and leading in environmental, education and community fields, including myself! During the summer months, students can participate in camps including: "Claws, Paws and Jaws", "Nature Chefs". "Soil Sleuths", "Pay it Forward" and "The Hidden Forest".
The YMCA has been supporting student leadership and outdoor fun and learning through their summer camps for years. Many times these camps allow for outdoor experiences for kids who may not find these opportunities otherwise. To find a local Y camp in your area check out this link.
The Montshire Museum in Norwich, VT is a hands-on science museum that also offers educational programming for schools and professional development for teachers. Their internship programs foster growth in young teachers and those who want to learn more about the inner workings of a museum. This is another program I benefited from at the beginning of my career! Throughout the summer the museum offers a variety of science inspired summer camps such as "Aquatic Explorers", "Inventors Workshop", and "Kinetic Art". Not to mention their current featured science exhibits, Science in Soap, Air Play and Prehistoric Menagerie.
If you garden or want to support school and community gardening, then the National Gardening Association (NGA) is something to get involved with. This organization has awarded 10,000 youth gardening grants through their programs that promote gardening, fighting childhood obesity, growing a garden at every school, and more. Kids Gardening through NGA is a fantastic resource for home gardens, particularly engaging children in gardening and school gardens. Definitely worth checking out.
Several other New England based organizations of note are: The Berkshire Museum, Springfield Museums, CT Science Center and 2nd Chance Animal Center. Each offers school and camp programming ranging from science and tech to animal care. This summer you might want to check out the Berkshire Museum's camps in CSI, robotics, ponds etc. Springfield Museum's youth courses or planetarium shows, CT Science Center's "Frozen Science Fever" Disney-inspired event , or 2nd Chance's summer animal youth programs.
The list could go on and on. There are so many excellent organizations that are propelling the study of science and nature forward. These are just a few I am familiar with and those in my area. What are some of your favorites in your area? Please share in the comment section!