Incorporating College Prep & Service Learning into STEM Education

May 27, 2016

This project is featured as part of the 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) STEM for ALL Video Showcase. Visit the NSF Video Showcase website to see our other featured videos and vote for your favorites.

The Lawrence Hall of Science is leading the way in developing a new science learning program to teach high school students about engineering, math, and innovative solar technology. More than that, though, the program aims to motivate students to stay in school and eventually pursue a college degree in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

The three-year program is funded by a National Science Foundation grant and has attracted several collaborative community partners. Educational Pathways Into College and Careers (EPICC) incorporates college and career advising. And the East Bay College Fund (EBCF) partner provides activities and workshops to assist students in aspects of college readiness, including applications and financial aid.

“The beauty of having college access and career focus is to make the connection between what’s currently happening in high school, what’s happening in the workforce, and what it takes to actually get one of those great jobs in a STEM field,” says Diane Dodge, Executive Director of EBCF.

The program focuses on real-world solar energy applications, and includes an aspect of service learning. Through We Care Solar, students participate in research and development that can transform the lives of a partner community in the developing world. The goal is for students to see that what they learn in school can make a difference and make a positive impact on the world around them.

Students also learn key math concepts related to solar energy and electric systems. Aspire Education Project in Oakland developed lessons and problems, working with We Care Solar to ensure that the problems were aligned with what the students were learning about solar systems. Aspire educators also provided math instruction to students.

In the summer of 2015, a group of 27 students from Skyline High School, Oakland Unified, participated in a pilot of EPICC. Over three weeks, students designed a variety of solar systems and built solar suitcases. These cases are stand-alone power units that can supply energy to a variety of electronic devices and lights in places that otherwise would not have access to reliable electricity. Through Global Orphans Organization, the suitcases were delivered to a war-ravaged area of Uganda. The program will continue this summer and in summer 2017.

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