The New York University Tandon School of Engineering has long recognized the critical need to engage K-12 students, teachers, schools and school systems through hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). These efforts aim to increase access to high quality learning experiences, STEM-focused higher education and related careers. For more than 15 years -with funding from the National Science Foundation, and other public, philanthropic and corporate sources over that period - the School’s faculty, students and the Center for K12 STEM Education have developed innovative programs that bring STEM disciplines and concepts to every level of the K-12 education system.
The Center and its programs place strong emphasis on serving those who have limited access to high-quality STEM education and those students from demographic groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields: students of color, girls and young women, and those from low-income backgrounds. Our work with teachers largely focuses on educators serving these demographic groups. On average the demographic profile of students in our programs is 81 percent are from low income backgrounds; 50 percent are female; 90 percent are students of color; and 15 percent are eligible for school‐based Individualized Education Program (IEP) support for autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and other learning needs.
Our methodology for K-12 STEM education focuses on utilizing the expertise and passion of trained graduate and undergraduate students employed and supervised by the Center to develop and teach hands-on, activity based STEM curricula to younger students and their teachers, under the guidance of faculty members. We strongly emphasize authentic experiences: grounding curriculum and instruction in the application and integration of STEM concepts in the real-world and a social context; connecting content to ongoing research in our applied engineering, computer science and other labs; employing pedagogy that is inquiry based, problem solving and iterative; and deploying the actual tools of scientists and engineers-from microcontrollers, electronic components, actuators, and the like to high-end testing and experimental equipment used in research.
These activities take place within programmatic and structured frameworks, provided by the Center for K12 STEM Education. These initiatives are sustained, deep engagements and support learning in classrooms, after-school environments and in on- and off-campus summer programs. The Center’s programs engage and mobilize the School of Engineering’s many communities including faculty, administrators and students, its physical resources of laboratories and classrooms and School initiatives that expose young people and teachers to the creative, exciting and academically challenging world of science.
K-12 students and teachers that participate in the Center’s programs gain analytical skills and knowledge by engaging in scientific inquiry, an excitement about the personal possibilities educational attainment provides and a deep appreciation for the inherent inventiveness embedded in all kinds of scientific and academic pursuits. Achieving these goals puts students on the path to school completion, higher education and economic and social advancement. School of Engineering students that participate acquire leadership and presentation skills, contribute to solving the pressing local and national problems of a lack of diversity and interest in STEM studies and pursuits, and enhance and reinforce their own learning, creativity and professionalism.