According to the National Student Clearinghouse, degrees in STEM fields have incrementally increased between 2004 and 2014 among men and women. Thanks to the recent implementation of national STEM programs, summer camps and efforts by schools across the country, students are starting to fill these much-needed occupations that were once out of favor.
Explore America is a tour company that offers STEM programs in San Francisco, New York City and Boston. Students have a structured itinerary that allows them to do some sightseeing, view popular museums and engage in numerous hands-on activities within a short amount of time (typically 4-5 days). The tour, for example, is broken down as follows:
- Arrive in Boston, take a boat tour and have dinner at Quincy Market.
- Visit one of MIT’s research labs, visit the MIT Museum and participate in an educational workshop.
- Travel to Manchester, visit FIRST Robotics Headquarters (an international youth organization standing for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”), return to Boston, become a sound engineer at MMMMAVEN School of Music Technology and participate in an educational workshop.
HAKA Educational Tours
A STEM tour operator that structures its programs a little differently is HAKA Educational Tours. It offers a variety of experiences including air and space camp, design and technology, land and sea camp, robotics academy and earth science. The tours are longer than Explore America’s (around 10-12 days) and tend to be more expensive due to inclusions such as flights, meals, tour guides, camp counselors and admission fees. A sample itinerary for the Land and Sea Camp in Hawaii is as follows:
- Fly to the Big Island and visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to learn about its active volcanoes.
- Snorkel at famous Black Sand Beach, where students can see turtles and fish in their natural environment.
- Get involved with the Trash Act Project by cleaning up coastlines of South Point Beach.
- Visit the Waiopae Tide Pools and swim, snorkel or fish in the calm inner pools where students can also observe sea life and test water quality.
Ten80 Education takes a different route to engage students in STEM. Like Explore America, this company offers tours for students in popular cities across the U.S. These are one-day programs that are completely free and even provide students with lunch and a T-shirt if they register punctually. During these training programs, students are involved in workshops that home in on one of the three major aspects of innovation: the engineering process, the enterprise process and leadership. What sets this tour STEM tour operator apart from the rest is what happens after students complete their specialized workshop. Instead of simply ending there, the organization brings together teams of students from each city this program covers to share what they learned and collaborate with one another concerning certain issues they faced during their workshop. Students will soon recognize their overlapping struggles, giving them confidence during this collaboration process. Having this program debrief their students from their innovators workshop allows for a complete understanding of why something worked or didn’t work and creates a more fruitful learning environment.
Marine Resources Development Foundation
Marine Resources Development Foundation in Key Largo, Florida, is a STEM educational program devoted to middle and high school students who are curious about ocean research and marine ecology. In the standard and advanced programs, students are given snorkeling instructions and are able to interact with snorkeling professionals. A sample itinerary of the most popular program is as follows:
- Students briefed on expectations, snorkeling instruction provided, and begin snorkeling.
- Begin curriculum on seagrass, mangrove and coral reef ecology.
- Begin labs on zooplankton and invertebrates and continue snorkeling.
These tours are either three or four days in length and contain an extensive marine biology crash course, enabling students to dive right in to environmental science research, marine biology studies and snorkeling tutorials.
iUrban Teen is a company in Portland, Oregon, and offers half-day programs for students interested in the STEM and arts fields. With each tour and follow-up program only lasting a half-day, students are attracted to these brief yet highly informative opportunities to observe industry-leading processes and top-of-the-line technology. This company recognizes the need for future industry leaders; they’ve partnered with leading companies like Nike, Google and even the FBI to allocate the proper training these students need to spark their curiosity in STEM fields. The program brings together underrepresented high school students to encourage high goals and career exploration through mentoring and collaboration.
Educational Travel Services
Educational Travel Services is a tour operator encompassing the connection between science education and service learning projects, cultural experiences and adventure. Like Explore America and Ten80education, this company offers science tours in a variety of destinations, including Costa Rica, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, Florida and California’s Silicon Valley. In each of these locations, students are able to connect with the community through service and immerse themselves in the culture of the region while engaging in challenges ranging from engineering to geology. A sample itinerary for Central Florida’s science experience is as follows:
- Explore a product safety test lab and take a ride on EPCOT’s Test Track – one of Disney’s fastest attractions. Riders will create a virtual vehicle and then be whipped around 50-degree turns at 60 mph for a thrilling and creative experience.
- Kayak along Fort Desoto Beach and take a closer look at marine life through shark dissection or snorkeling. After lunch, step inside the Wonderworks Museum in Orlando to experience more than 100 interactive exhibits.
- Visit the Kennedy Space Center, where students tour launch areas, see giant rockets and train in space flight simulators. Afterwards, students have the opportunity to eat lunch with an astronaut where questions and pictures are encouraged. In the evening, study Florida’s ecosystems by becoming aware of endangered species, understanding humans’ impact on these species and what we can do to help.
Thanks to the implementation of these and other constructive STEM tours, students are able to explore what excites them most. Through hands-on activities and speaking with staff professionals, young scholars will be inspired to pursue a career in a STEM-related field.