The STEM Hour Program is designed to provide underserved children access to the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) through engaging, hands-on learning activities. Currently, the program works with the Little Lighthouse Foundation at the Chapman House, a homeless shelter for families in Miami and will hopefully expand to more shelters in the near future. Through comprehensive lessons and experiments, STEM Hour enriches the lives of children as they develop a love for science through continuous participation in STEM.Updates from STEM Hour
Before establishing the STEM Hour Volunteering Program, I volunteered at the Miami Chapman House homeless shelter for families in a Story Hour and an Activity Hour organized by the Little Lighthouse Foundation where volunteers read to a group of children after school and spend time creating crafts and drawing with them. When I volunteered on Tuesdays, the children’s smiles, giggles, and hugs that they shared while we read and drew together stayed with me for the remainder of the week. The impact of the time I spent with the children of the Chapman House and the joy and love for reading the children experienced as a result of the program inspired me to organize my own program working with the Chapman House to provide the children access to the world of STEM. I wanted to share my love of science with them, too.
I had read a study supported by STEM Next and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation that found participation in STEM-related after-school programs resulted in a heightened interest in and passion for STEM subjects in more than 70% of students. To help students who may not otherwise have the ability to do so enjoy learning and develop their passions for science through hands-on experiments and lessons, I established the STEM Hour Program at the Chapman House with the help of the Little Lighthouse Foundation, Miami’s most prominent volunteer organization, to establish a STEM Hour at the Chapman House. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I hosted a STEM Hour program once a month at the Chapman House where the group, ranging from 20-30 students between the ages of 5-14, enjoyed science lessons and STEM experiments. I gather volunteers from my high school, Gulliver Prep, to join the Little Lighthouse volunteers in spending an hour creating a positive environment that facilitates enjoyment and learning for the Chapman House children. With specially designed lessons and experiments each month, the children are able to be active participants in the world of STEM and develop their love for science. Seeing the kids light up and become inspired is the thing I enjoy the most. While the COVID-19 Pandemic has prevented STEM Hour from physically hosting sessions and exploring science, we have been committed to continuing to make a positive impact and allow students to explore STEM despite our distance. With the Little Lighthouse’s online program, Do Good Feel Good Live, STEM Hour has hosted Instagram Live experiments and lessons with household materials and we are currently working to create and distribute experiment care-packages to partner facilities complete with recorded video lessons explaining and running through the experiment.
With the help of Riley’s Way as a part of the Call for Kindness opportunity, I hope to maximize the positive impact of STEM Hour by introducing the program’s students to more advanced and complex experiments with corresponding lessons. With this increase in the amount of experiments and their complexity, the students will be able to further immerse themselves in the world of STEM. The age gap between many students is also significant; finding an activity suitable for both a 5-year-old and a 14-year-old is difficult, and with the help of Riley’s Way we plan on increasing the number of experiments done and lessons taught, making each of them fit the students’ age range and interests. Not only will we be able to improve this program with the help of Riley’s Way via personal access to more experiments, but I also hope to increase STEM Hour’s impact in the community in the near future by expanding its reach to more children in Miami. Because Miami is such a large city, I hope to expand the program to include more homeless shelters in addition to the Chapman House. Expanding the STEM Hour Program to include shelters like the M. Teresa Mission of Charity Shelter, Lotus House Homeless Women and Children’s Shelter, and the Miami City Mission Youth Center is a goal that I hope to make possible with the help of Riley’s Way in the near future. As STEM Hour progresses and we solidify a curriculum that can be replicated, I would love to spread STEM Hour’s positive impact across the country to provide more underserved children access to the world of STEM as they explore science with high school mentors and STEM Hour. Working with the Riley’s Way team as well as my fellow Call for Kindness grant recipients has been such an amazing experience; in such a supportive, collaborative environment, I am excited to continue to work with the Riley’s Way family to spread kindness, empathy, and inspiration.