Access to “Out of School” learning experiences can play a prominent role in introducing low-income students to STEM projects and leading them down a pathway to a STEM career. After-school programs encourage alternative ways of learning complex material related to math and science (National Research Council, Learning Science in Informal Environments, 2009).  The NRC study has shown that after school STEM program participants begin to think about themselves as science learners and develop identities as young people for whom science matters. These outcomes are critical to students’ development and career formation.

HOC’s low-income student population is compounded not only with the daunting career options facing all American youth who are not highly skilled in Science, Math, Engineering and Technology, but also with the odds of overcoming the achievement gap that exists between low income and the more affluent. According to Stanford University sociologist, Sean F. Reardon, the achievement gap among the poor and the rich is double the gap between black and white children.

Our modern workforce is increasingly STEM driven. And so, simply providing homework clubs is not enough. Our Kids’ STEM program has shown very encouraging results.  HOC’s low-income, at-risk youth not only need, but more importantly want to pursue STEM activities in order to succeed in today’s classroom.

Under the Kids’ STEM Programs, trained STEM instructors conduct a variety of after-school robotics clubs for at-risk, low-income youth living at various subsidized housing communities in Montgomery County.

Introductory Robotics

Throughout the school year, students (grades 1-8) attend two-hour sessions twice a week after school. The students learn about all of the aspects of robotics -- construction, programming, physics, etc. After researching curriculum topics on introductory robotics, Kids’ STEM participants design and program a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 or a WeDo 2.0 robot to solve missions on a special obstacle course. Each participant utilizes a LEGO robotic kit, containing all the LEGO elements needed to construct a robot, a programmable brick, sensors, motors, and the software needed to program it.

Friday Family Fun & STEM Night

One Friday each month, kids and parents participate in fun learning STEM activities. We believe that youth are more inclined to pursue STEM careers if their parents are engaged early on in their children’s education. Hands on fun events in food science, structural biology, physics and robotics are just some of the exciting activities presented at our Friday Family Fun & STEM nights.

Middle School STEM Initiative

In collaboration with various STEM based agencies like WSSC and Metro Warriors STEM Organization, Community Partners and HOC host STEM events throughout the year for middle school aged youth. Students participate in a variety of hands-on experiments, fun exercises in computing and physics, and exciting field trips to research facilities and museums.

Other After-School Activities

At many affordable housing communities, children have no opportunities to attend after school activities because of their parents’ economic and transportation limitations. These various afterschool programs are essential, because many kids are home after school without any adult supervision. Thanks to an exciting partnership with Carpe Diem Arts, Inc. Community Partners and HOC provide academic support and cultural enrichment to elementary aged students. In intervals of six-week “clubs”, we provide cultural arts programming in musical instrument making, drumming & dance, storytelling, games & songs, and arts & crafts. Each day before the structured activities, homework assistance/tutoring is offered to each participant. Thanks to these clubs, kids do better in school and expand their understanding and appreciation of several different cultures.