Summer Academies Build STEM and Leadership Skills in Middle School Youth.
Situation: The U.S. faces a crisis of youth losing interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
(STEM). Manufacturing centers locally have suffered from this decline. Women earn about 20%, and
minorities 12% of the engineering degrees awarded in the U.S. (ASEE Report, 2006). A 2008 needs
assessment of 9 school district superintendents rated “preparing students for the 21st century
workforce” and “hands-on experience in Science, Engineering & Technology” as a high priority. Analysis
of school district MAP test results showed the achievement gap in Science is widening, evidenced by
fewer students meeting basic and advanced proficiency levels in science compared to other subjects.
Response: Heidi Dusek, Outagamie County Youth & Family Coordinator, designed summer day camp
academies to inspire all students to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math
(STEM). Camps integrated skills of youth leadership through teamwork, communication and public
speaking. Heidi compiled, adapted and created curriculum to reflect experiential learning process
utilizing youth interests to provide 4 Summer STEM Academies: Magic of Hogwarts, Gateway Academy,
Crime Scene Investigators, and Robotics Rule. Heidi worked with school district counselors and teachers
to market academies, with emphasis to encourage underserved youth. The academies engaged 42 youth
(31 families) participants, in hands-on experiences for STEM content skills, youth leadership
development, and awareness of STEM careers. Participant demographics represented 14 towns; 13
female and 29 male; 37 white & 5 non-white; 3 low income received scholarship. Heidi partnered with
Fox Valley Technical College and Chamber of Commerce to identify guest speakers and coordinate field
trips, and New London School District for leadership in teaching the Gateway Academy. Funding was
provided through the KERN foundation, Outagamie County 4-H Leaders Association and registration
fees. Heidi coordinated, facilitated with AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, and evaluated camp activities to
measure the impact of experiences on youth skill development and career interests in STEM.
Results: According to youth post-session evaluations, 100% of participants reported an increase in
problem solving and communication skills as a result of the camp; 87% reported a greater interest in
STEM related career. Parent’s reinforced STEM career interest, with 63% reported their child had a
greater interest in STEM career field after the camp. Direct quotes from parents included “The Gateway
Academy and Robotics Rule taught my son many new things that he is now using in school and he is
actually a step ahead of his peers;” “Instructors gave the kids plenty of leeway to use their imagination
and experience;” “My 13 year old daughter (who doesn’t think anything is cool or fun anymore)
absolutely loved the CSI camp! It fueled her interest in investigative work. She actually has the
fingerprint and footprints she completed on display in her room-that says a lot.” Evidence from the
journals demonstrated 100% of youth participants increased proficiency in STEM skill development.
Open houses welcomed 88 adults and 2 media outlets, of which 79 were new to 4-H Youth Development
programming. 4-H Leaders Association requested to expand project offerings to include Robotics, and
Computers as a result of STEM academy impact, resulting in 21 4-H members enrolling in the projects.
Evidence: Data collected through journals during the Magic of Hogwarts and CSI academies tracked
progress of participant’s STEM skill development (predicting, observing, comparing, organizing and
applying). Youth participants completed a post session evaluation at the conclusion of each academy
with a 100% response rate. An electronic post-pre survey sent to 25 parents 5 months after the child’s
participation had a response rate of 40% (10 of 25).