In a new summer educational program being piloted at Sector67, incoming 3rd to 9th grade students can work on improving their math and engineering skills (the ME in ME@Sector stands for “Math and Engineering”) in a social, hands-on environment. This summer’s program is held on Monday afternoons from 2-4 pm and will last 8 weeks. Scott Hasse, a long term Sector67 member and volunteer, and his wife, Laura McNeill, a math and engineering enthusiast, are developing an initial curriculum, organizing the program and delivering this summer’s sessions. “Although math and engineering can be taught in a traditional classroom, Sector67’s space is ideal for designing and conducting investigations. The students can get their hands dirty in an environment where practical engineering happens,” says Scott.
The first session focused on ∏. ME@Sector participants measured various circles and counted their paces around and across a huge chalk circle to estimate values for ∏. This “feet-on” approach helped participants internalize what ∏ actually is, rather than just memorizing digits and plugging values in formulas. Participants also enjoyed eating some delicious pie. In the second class, ME@Sector participants recreated Galileo’s inclined plane experiment, in which they measured the distance travelled by a ball rolling down a constant slope every second to calculate its acceleration. Some of the youth estimated that the distance travelled would be consistent between 1 second intervals, and were surprised to find out it was not. In both sessions, the young engineers had to construct the apparatus, consider possible sources of error in their measurements and other practical engineering problems.
To compliment these group activities, part of the each session is dedicated to individual math skills development. Scott and Laura use two online tools to facilitate math activities that best suit each student’s level. Reflex Math (http://www.reflexmath.com/) provides math-based games for kids to improve their fluency in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. For students who already have basic fluency, Scott and Laura use Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/), a free, online learning platform that uses videos, along with interactive assessments, to teach a variety of subjects including math. Both programs allow teachers, coaches, and parents to track student performance and see exactly where a student might be struggling.
Although Scott and Laura are leading the charge this summer, the goal is to create a program and curriculum that, if successful, can be extended. Scott says he would like to pursue sources of program funding to add sessions and facilitators. “One of our goals is to have a diverse group of engineers leading the program. This diversity would help all kids see themselves as future engineers.”
This summer’s pilot program is already full with 10 students. After program evaluation, plans will begin for next summer. The cost is currently only $10 for the entire 8-week session, and a healthy snack is served at each session. “Our goal is to keep the program as affordable as possible, so that it is accessible to all kids who would like to participate,” says Scott. For more information on the program, see the flier attached to this article. If you are interested in learning more about the ME@Sector program, participating as a facilitator, or know of a potential participant for next summer, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.