Press Release | One8 Foundation

STEM Week Challenge to Engage K-12 Students to Solve Real-World Problems

BOSTON – SEPTEMBER 30, 2020

Mass STEM Hub, a program of the One8 Foundation, today announced the launch of the STEM Week Challenge, a hands-on, applied learning experience for K-12 students occurring during the state’s STEM Week effort. The initiative is a free, flexible, and engaging way for educators to teach meaningful STEM subject matter while having students solve real-world problems that bring STEM to life, whether they are attending school in person or virtually. Partners In Health, Dell Technologies, and New England Aquarium partnered with Mass STEM Hub to develop the challenges and provide employees to judge student work.

Educators from more than 200 schools have signed up statewide – reaching an estimated 30,000 students – to implement Mass STEM Hub’s STEM Week Challenge, now in its second year. Student projects can be submitted through October 23 to be reviewed by industry experts. Winners will be announced in November.

“This year is unlike anything I’ve faced in my teaching career, but having participated in the STEM Week Challenge last year and seeing how much my students learned from the experience, I knew that this was exactly the kind of exciting project that would boost student engagement while teaching meaningful content,” said Jenn Donais, a math coach at Amesbury Middle School.  “We want and need to be doing more project-based learning across all grade levels, but given remote school, it has been challenging to figure out how. We are thrilled to be working with leading providers in this type of supported experience.”

The STEM Week Challenge is designed to engage students in rigorous and age-appropriate applied learning experiences. High school students will develop an original app that aims to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. Middle school students will use the engineering design process to design an adaptive device for individuals with paralysis. Elementary school students will develop their own math game that challenges users to hone their math skills.

“Applied learning deepens the way students connect with academics and teachers connect with students, and that connection is more important than ever as students and teachers start school during COVID-19,” said Joanna Jacobson, President of the One8 Foundation. “The STEM Week Challenge and its real-world, project-based learning strives to prepare students to be adaptive learners, persevering through challenges and thriving in an ever-changing world.”

The challenges, which are aligned to the Massachusetts Learning Standards, were developed with high-quality curriculum partners Innovative Learning Partners, PBLWorks, Project Lead The Way, and ST Math – organizations that are experts in applied learning, provide valued support to teachers, and that Mass STEM Hub works with regularly throughout the year. Industry partners Partners In Health, Dell Technologies, and New England Aquarium, as well as IBM and Bionic Project, Inc., were instrumental in the design by providing real-world context to the student challenges.  At each grade level, students have the opportunity to connect with experts from these industry partners amongst other organizations, asking questions and soliciting feedback on their projects.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest STEM challenge of our time, and students are experiencing its effects every day. Now, they get to tackle this real-world problem with the support of their teachers, our team, and phenomenal industry partners like Partners In Health and IBM who provided real-world context to the curriculum,” said Bob Lenz, CEO of PBLWorks. “We’re proud and excited to be a part of the Mass STEM Hub’s STEM Week Challenge, an engaging, hands-on, and standards-aligned way to reignite students’ interest and provide deep, meaningful learning on a critically important topic.”

“There is a clear link between student engagement and student performance, and exciting projects like the one we designed with Mass STEM Hub as part of the STEM Week Challenge spark the passion and curiosity that fuels student success,” said Bryan Kind, Co-Founder of Innovative Learning Partners. “Students participating in the challenge are in the driver’s seat of their learning experience, and we can’t wait to see what kind of creative and innovative solutions they develop to real-life problems.”

“We know that COVID-19 is having a real and measurable impact on students – both in terms of their social-emotional well-being and their academic achievement. The STEM Week Challenge will allow students to practice creative problem solving while building foundational math skills that are so important for elementary school students, and also help students to deeply understand and truly love math,” said Brett Woudenberg, CEO of MIND Research Institute – creators of ST Math.

“The STEM Week Challenge offers students the best of all worlds as they get to experience applied learning in action and combine critical thinking and STEM education with industry-aligned skills,” said Dr. Vince Bertram, President and CEO of Project Lead The Way. “By connecting what students are learning in the classroom – whether that’s in person, remote, or hybrid this fall – with what work professionals are doing in the real world, we are setting our students up for academic success today and building their skills to be ready to succeed in an ever-changing world.”

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