Boys & Girls Clubs offer STEM programs as an approach to meeting their goal of helping youth reach their full potential to grow into productive, caring and responsible citizens.

“STEM programs at Boys & Girls Clubs provide youth an opportunity to fall in love with learning while building skills that support academic success,” explained Chrissy Booth, senior director of youth development with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Success in STEM depends on classroom learning, as well as in after-school opportunities. Here are some ways Boys & Girls Clubs are fostering STEM education: 

1. Focus on youth experience

“STEM is more than just subjects you learn,” said Kaila Lemons, Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2017 Military Youth of the Year. “It’s about being part of a team and gaining problem-solving skills.” Lemons joined her local Boys & Girls Club as a high school sophomore, when she was already interested in science and engineering. While at the Club, she was given the freedom to generate and follow through on ideas and projects, including leading a team to fix bicycles that were later given as Christmas gifts to kids. “I had to plan the whole project,” she said. “It wasn’t just about learning, but also how to apply what I learned.” Lemons is currently working on a degree in mechanical engineering.

2. Stimulate a sense of curiosity

STEM activities in an informal afterschool setting complement what students learn in school by providing youth hands-on STEM experiences facilitated by engaged staff. Youth can see what it is like to be an engineer or a scientist and conduct their own experiments or construct their own projects. Every Club works to cultivate a space that sparks youth’s STEM interest.

3. Construct a space that sparks innovation

Having an equipped learning environment helps inspire innovation in STEM-related activities, so Boys & Girls Clubs across the country are transforming into STEM Centers of Innovation, to provide youth access to advanced technologies that stimulate creative approaches to STEM exploration. As a founding partner, Raytheon’s support enables Clubs to take a holistic approach to STEM learning by leveraging space, programs, infrastructure, staffing and partnerships. “STEM gives purpose to what you’re learning,” said Lemons. Through the STEM Centers of Innovation, youth are more motivated to dig deeper into their interests with student-led, hands-on projects.

4. Engage youth in hands-on STEM learning

Many science and engineering ideas come to life through the devices we hold in our hands, but cutting-edge technologies aren’t easily available to every young person. Samsung works with Boys & Girls Clubs to help remove access barriers by putting those technologies, and STEM-based curricula, into the hands of more youth. Samsung’s support also aided the expansion of the DIY STEM program for youth in grades 4-9, which provides exposure to STEM topics, connects them with real world, hands-on applications and empowers the next generation of innovators.

5. Invite youth to learn and play in both physical and digital spaces

Boys & Girls Clubs provide physical spaces for youth to learn, play and socialize, and by partnering with Comcast NBCUniversal, it expanded the Clubs’ offering into the digital space. The My.Future platform teaches youth about the endless possibilities technology offers and helps them to thrive in today’s digital world. The platform provides access to a variety of interactive programs ranging from digital literacy essentials to visual arts and from game design to music-making. It also gives staff tools to recognize members with digital badges, and allows Clubs to showcase the projects members make.

6. Increase access to computer science education

Studying computer science teaches youth computational thinking and gives them the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed for success in and out of school. Microsoft partners with Clubs to provide access to increasing complex computer science activities through the Computer Science Pathway on My.Future. Members learn to code, are given activities with computational reasoning and can design and code original ideas learning the skills needed to become creators of technology and the world’s future innovators.

Access STEM resources and information, visit www.BGCA.org/STEM.