An ‘Inaugural Year’ for our Summer Scientists

Students in the Summer STEM program build bridges out of popsicle sticks.

Another year of successful summer educational programming has passed at Capital City, but for one program – Middle School Summer STEM – this was the first time ever it was held in-person and not virtually. 

"This is kind of an inaugural year for us," said 8th Grade Science Teacher Ms. Hardy, who launched the program in Summer 2020. 

The Summer STEM program was created in 2020 to incorporate more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects into the Capital City Middle School curriculum, and to allow students a chance to collaborate with peers between school years. Plans for the program were in motion before the pandemic, so teachers and students had to pivot to a virtual learning environment.

Ms. Hardy said they made do with the virtual program the first two summers by offering kits so students could do hands-on projects at home. This year, being in-person has allowed for more collaboration, critical thinking, and opportunities to build student leadership skills, which are all EL Education goals.

"Being in the building with everybody, it’s so much easier to get feedback, to pivot where we need to, and make changes to ensure that the kids are getting the most out of this. They really are a driving force behind this whether they realize it or not," said Ms. Hardy. "These programs help for the school year because these students end up becoming your classroom leaders."

This summer, there were 88 students enrolled in Summer STEM with 11 staff. In the past two years, student attendance was around 50 to 60 students.

Summe STEM students take part in a lesson in the school's main lobby.

Students did a wide array of activities this summer, including drafting bridge designs and building them out of popsicle sticks, going on geometry walks, creating Kente cloths that represent themselves, learning about gentrification and examining their own neighborhoods, and writing STEM short stories, to name a few.

Being in-person also allowed them to go on fieldwork, either close by Capital City, like when they went to 7-Eleven for free slurpee day and had to calculate what time they had to leave their house to get to the store to make it on time to school, or to destinations further away like when they went to the Baltimore Aquarium.

Rising 8th grader Angel participated for the first time this year and said he was reluctant to join after his mom signed him up. In the end, he said he appreciated the program. "If it weren't for Summer STEM, I would probably be stuck at home and not doing much," said Angel.

Elizabeth, a rising 8th-grader who has participated all three years and hopes to become a surgeon, said she would recommend Summer STEM to all of her peers. "It’s extremely fun! And you get to connect with people in your grade who you might not have spent time with otherwise," Elizabeth said. "It’s definitely helped prepare me for 8th grade. It’s helping me keep my brain active during the summer."

MS STEM Celebration of Learning

At the end of the program on July 29, students got to share with their families, peers, and teachers what they had been working on during a Celebration of Learning. Ms. Hardy said she hopes for future years of Summer STEM they can continue to build the program and provide opportunities for families to see the great work their budding scientists are doing.