Vincent Simmons was in his first year as a middle school science teacher when he was invited to learn about the STEM Scholars Program for middle and high school teachers.
Open to new ways to connect with his students, Simmons decided to implement the free platform, developed by EVERFI.
Then, the pandemic hit, forcing teachers to revamp lesson plans and learn how to lead from a laptop instead of a classroom.
With the help of the STEM Scholars Program, Simmons was ready to embrace this new challenge.
"Kids are smiling. They enjoy learning. It's been really helpful," said Simmons, who teaches at Cassidy Academic Plus School in West Philadelphia. "It really keeps the kids engaged. It's a hands-on subject. The kids want to do a lot of hands-on activities. When you have a program like the STEM Scholars Program where the kids can do hands-on activities, that's where it gets the kids excited. And that's what gets the kids learning. I would like to see more STEM-type programs."
The Philadelphia Eagles and Braskem have brought STEM Scholars, an interactive digital education program that focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and the careers available to students, to over 30 schools in the Philadelphia area each academic year since 2018. The program is designed for middle to high school students and introduces them to careers available to them – including with the Eagles and Braskem – that center around STEM, and what classes they can take, or skills to acquire, to pursue them. The program is still available to schools during the 2020-21 academic year.
Simmons is not alone in seeing the positive effects on students.
In its first two years, over 5,000 students participated in the program. Assessment scores increased by 81 percent. Forty percent of students who never thought about pursuing a career in a STEM-based field now can imagine themselves attaining one.
"It is so important, having the technology and having the STEM programs, it allows them to see things or experience things online, practice things online as well," Simmons said. "It keeps them engaged. That's the big part about the STEM program. The technology helps to keep the kids engaged. You can sit here and go through the lesson, but if you don't have the engaging part together, then you're going to lose them. The STEM program helps keep the kids engaged. They actually get to practice the ideas."
One of the activities Simmons initiated was to create a new energy bar. The students learned how the different ingredients impact the calorie count and how the nutrients fuel the body. Simmons could tell the impact the project had on one student, who was typically shy and reserved. The student was asking several questions and invested in the process.
As the program expands, five schools in the Philadelphia area will have access to Sustainability Foundations, which introduces students to the basics of sustainability, focusing on the choices learners can make every day. This Sunday happens to be National Recycling Day, as the Eagles hope to trash the Giants. During the past two years, the Eagles and Braskem have challenged schools and students to recycle bottle caps to win the "Cap-etition."
With the switch to remote or hybrid learning for most of the school year, the "Cap-etition" will relaunch as a new challenge for students to do at home or in the classroom. Students are encouraged to use bottle caps to create a mosaic picture, either of the Eagles logo or the Braskem logo. Throughout the year, entries will be encouraged alongside the usage of the STEM Scholars Program. Winners will win prizes like a pizza party at Lincoln Financial Field, recycled benches for the school, and a technology grant.