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K-State News
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College of Education offering local STEM Institute, national Summer STEAM Virtual Academy

Tuesday, March 23, 2021



MANHATTAN — The popular Kansas State University Summer STEM Institute — designed to ignite local middle schoolers' interest in science, technology, engineering and math — has inspired the creation of the Summer STEAM Virtual Academy that is open to any current fifth through eighth grader across the country.

The academy will be offered Monday through Thursday, June 7-24, from 9 a.m. to noon CDT. The registration fee is $75 for all three weeks. The topics are Wild, Weird and Wonderful Writing; M.U.S.I.C. (Music Using STEM is Cool); Sports Science; Stop Motion Animation; and Planet Podcast. Calista Speake, a remote kindergarten teacher at Amanda Arnold Elementary School in Manhattan, serves as principal of the virtual academy.

School districts are also encouraged to join the virtual academy with a hybrid option, in which groups of students participate in the online sessions at a school, supported by a teacher or staff member from that district. Because of the use of an on-site teacher or staff member, the cost will be greatly reduced. Those interested in the hybrid option should contact Speake at virtualsteam@k-state.edu.

The in-person Summer STEM Institute for Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 students is also open to current fifth through eighth graders, and fees are outlined on the registration form. Sessions run from June 7-24 and will be at Bluemont Elementary School in Manhattan.

The STEM institute typically welcomes around 325 students from the Manhattan-Ogden school district to the K-State campus each June for the half-day sessions. Because of the pandemic, institute organizers with the College of Education's department of curriculum and instruction switched last year's institute to an online format.

"The STEAM institute is an excellent example of how education is changing and how we are leading teaching and learning in this new pandemic-inspired reality," said Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education. "COVID brought a myriad of changes to education, and we learned that some students struggle in a virtual environment while others thrive. Our response is to offer both modalities because families need flexibility, students need enrichment and future teachers need experience."

Lori Goodson, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and K-State Summer STEM Institute coordinator, said creating the STEAM Virtual Academy was the right course of action.

"When we saw how popular virtual STEM was last summer, we didn't want to lose that momentum," Goodson said. "In meeting with Paula Hough, executive director of teaching and learning for Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, we determined that USD 383 should focus on students from its district returning to in-person sessions, while K-State would reach out to students beyond the local district. So, we worked together to develop a virtual option, as well."

"USD 383 is ecstatic to be working alongside the College of Education to provide these opportunities for students in our community but also taking what we learned last summer and extending the experience to students across the state through the K-State program," Hough said. "We have a group of educators who are ready for June and ready to be part of this incredible institute with the college's future teachers and the fifth through eighth graders who are ready for fun."

Goodson, who also serves as assistant director of the College of Education's Rural Education Center, is excited to provide such a great summer opportunity to an even wider audience, including rural communities throughout Kansas.

Like the Summer STEM Institute, the virtual version focuses on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, and math — and offers hands-on, high-engagement activities led by highly-qualified teachers throughout the region. Classes are designed to make use of many common household items to keep expenses at a minimum for participants.

"Since this is the first year for the virtual academy, we are starting off with five topics," Goodson said. "But we're excited to see this program build. As a virtual program, the academy isn't limited to students in Kansas, so we see lots of potential."

In summer 2020, middle schoolers throughout Kansas and as far away as Minnesota participated in the virtual classes.

To learn more about the classes and to register, visit the STEAM Virtual Academy website at coe.ksu.edu/collaborations/summer-stem-institute/virtual.html. For questions, contact Speake at virtualsteam@k-state.edu.