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After-School STEM Classes Foster Critical-Thinking Skills & Creativity



STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs and courses have become a cornerstone for young learners because research shows that exposure to these subjects benefits kids in the classroom, in college and beyond. An after-school STEM class is a great way to foster your child’s critical-thinking skills and creativity.

A look at local STEM classes

Even if your child usually finds science and math difficult or boring, after-school STEM classes can keep him engaged because they incorporate hands-on activities that makes these subjects fun. These classes go above and beyond traditional schoolwork and give young learners opportunities to work in small groups on thought-provoking projects.

First LEGO League, which has teams throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, offers an after-school program with a fun competitive twist. Instructors give teams of up to 10 elementary and middle-school students a real-world problem on issues like food safety, recycling or energy to research and solve. Each team also has to build a LEGO robot to maneuver across a tabletop playing field. Through the program, students learn and utilize STEM concepts, critical thinking, teamwork and presentation skills.

According to Kecia McMillian, center director for Sylvan Learning Center of Newark, DE, the Sylvan EDGE Program allows students in grades 1-6 to explore the worlds of coding, engineering, robotics and math. Activities include building robots and other machines with LEGOs, creating bridges with K’NEX and using Tynker Technology to code video games and computer animation. The Sylvan locations in Turnersville and Marlton, NJ also offer the EDGE program to local students.

From class to career

STEM classes and programs not only allow young learners to have fun and acquire important skills, they give students the chance to learn about career options they may not have known were possible beforehand.

Michael Burch, director of youth programs for The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, says, “STEM programs help students to be competitive around the world. These programs help students realize that STEM careers are obtainable goals.”

The Franklin Institute offers a few programs that focus on STEM careers, including the Partnership for Achieving Careers in Technology and Science (PACTS) and STEM Scholars. Both programs give high-school students a chance to explore STEM careers and do research, and STEM scholars tutors teens for the SATs and ACTs.

Burch says, “You may study the same matter in a textbook at school, but here you actually manipulate the subject matter.” These highly interactive experiences can help spark a student’s interest in a particular course of study and future occupation.

STEM classes and programs have a huge impact not only on the students who experience and enjoy them but also on the world as a whole. As McMillian puts it, “We live in a world of technology and science, so to get children interested in those sorts of things is important since they are the future.”

More Local STEM Classes

Department of Making and Doing, Phila.

Offers classes for younger kids on weekends that focus on expanding students’ skills in design, fabrication, electronics and art through hands-on activities. Thursday-night sessions for teens.

LEAP Into Science, Phila.

A partnership between The Franklin Institute and The Free Library of Philadelphia that enhances science and literacy skills for children in underserved communities.

STEAM Works Studio, Princeton, NJ

After-school and weekend classes for preK-grade 12 engage kids in learning science, technology, art and math through hands-on activities that include animation, robotics and 3D printing. 

Meredith Strom is an English major at Drexel University and a co-op intern at MetroKids

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