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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Second Annual Boston STEM Week Offers Students Chance to Experiment and Solve Real-World Problems

Second Annual Boston STEM Week Offers Students Chance to Experiment and Solve Real-World Problems
BPS schools replace weekly curriculum with hands-on STEM learning labs for the week; four schools pilot STEM month
Boston — Oct. 23, 2017 – The Boston Public Schools (BPS) today is kicking off its 2nd annual Boston STEM Week in which more than 6,000 6th-8th-grade students and 250 teachers from 30 schools will set aside their regular classwork over the next five days to participate in innovative, hands-on science and engineering projects that include learning how to build interactive robots from stuffed animals, dubbed “Friendly Monsters,” and design original video games with custom graphics, sound effects and music.

BPS last year partnered with i2 Learning to become the first urban school district in the nation to launch STEM Week, turning middle-school-grade classrooms into high-tech learning labs for five days. BPS this year is again teaming up with the education organization to deliver an expanded array of exciting week-long programs that give students real-world lessons in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Boston is a city with a thriving innovation economy, world-class research institutions and leading life science and technology firms. That is why we are working hard to help our schools foster the next generation of innovators, scientists, engineers and technologists who will take Boston to new heights,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “STEM Week gives our students an opportunity to explore first-hand STEM-related fields that could spark their imaginations and become their life’s passion.”

As part of STEM Week, students will be able to take courses to learn about surgical techniques, urban farming and creating large-scale, chain-reaction works of art called “kinetic sculptures.” Additionally, based on last year’s success, four BPS schools will conduct i2 Month, offering their sixth-grade students a special four-week STEM-led interdisciplinary curriculum. 

Sponsors of STEM Week include MathWorks and Vertex. The Lynch Foundation, Shah Family Foundation, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and The Boston Foundation are providing additional support.

“It is the mission of the Boston Public Schools to ensure our children graduate ready for college, career and life. In order for our students to compete in the global economy, we need to provide them access to a quality STEM education,” said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. “This is important not only because STEM occupations are growing at nearly twice the rate of other occupations but also introducing students to a STEM education early on can help close ethnic and gender gaps found in math and science fields.”

“For my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, STEM Week is like finding the entry point into their heart and soul,” said Marjorie Soto, principal of the Hurley K-8 School. “Last year, we had children who were wearing goggles and lab coats, working with the human heart to see how the blood goes through it. They were able to make connections and inferences based on what they saw, and connect it to what they had read. They not only experienced this learning, they owned it. It was as if they had become immersed in an exciting problem-solving community.”

Following their success during last year’s STEM Week, four BPS schools have opted to extend beyond the week and are piloting i2 Month, a full four-week-long program. Replacing their traditional sixth-grade coursework from the end of October until late November, these schools will implement a special expanded version of the "Building a Lunar Colony" curriculum. In addition to many STEM activities, including constructing a sustainable colony on the moon, sixth graders will cover other school disciplines by reading and writing science fiction, discovering space exploration and developing their own form of government for their new colony.

“These schools are really leading the way in how education will look for the next generation,” said i2 Learning Chief Executive Officer Ethan Berman. “We are excited to work with the Boston Public Schools and key partners MathWorks and Vertex, as well as local foundations, all of whose support has allowed us to make a profound impact on students, teachers and schools.”

“One of the most direct and impactful ways of building a strong future workforce of scientists and engineers is to generate excitement for STEM in middle schoolers,” said MathWorks CEO Jack Little. “Our goal is to ensure schools have access to the tools, curricula and training necessary to build the interest and competencies necessary for students to pursue STEM careers.”

“Like most of my scientist friends, I got hooked on science early by my outstanding 5th-grade teacher. Developing the next generation of scientists is all about capturing the imagination of kids early and showing them how much fun science can be,” said Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Vertex. “We’re delighted to be partnering with organizations like i2 Learning who share our commitment of bringing hands-on learning opportunities in STEM to students across the City of Boston.”

To see Boston STEM Week in action, watch this one-minute video.

To follow school progress, track team progress, and see images from past years, search #BOSTONSTEMWEEK on Twitter.

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