Students work on a project in Small Engine Repair camp at the Sierra Vista Campus this summer. (Photo by Rick Whipple)
Sometimes, kids need a little help figuring out what sparks their interest, and Cochise College has programs all year long to help young students do just that.
From elementary through high school, the college’s K-12 Outreach Department offers something for just about everyone interested in STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. There are half-day week-long camps for upper elementary and middle schoolers in the summer, the day-long annual Math and Science Experience for fourth through eighth graders in the spring, the hands-on STEM Exploration Academy for freshmen and sophomores when school starts, and the Running Start Academy for juniors and seniors throughout the academic year.
“Our Pathway Initiative recognizes that the factors leading to a student’s decision to pursue careers in science and technology are not confined to the college years,” said Ben Berry, Cochise College’s K-12 Outreach Director. “We’re committed to building a pathway in STEM activities that leads from kindergarten through 12th grade, through the college and university levels.”
This fall, the ASPIRE Project will round out the K-12 Outreach Department’s offerings for young students in Cochise County with the implementation of programs that focus on early elementary school students. ASPIRE, which stands for Arizona STEM Pathways in a Rural Environment, is funded primarily through a grant received by APS (Arizona Public Service) Company, whose foundation supports STEM-based K-12 projects in Arizona.
“This new program will extend our Pathway Initiative’s current work and have downstream benefits for those four STEM programs already in place,” Berry said. “ASPIRE will have a special emphasis on K-3 students, but will be inclusive of all elementary grades. The rural districts in our service area have the greatest need for educational enrichment activities. Their geographic remoteness exacerbates the reality that they also tend to be the most economically disadvantaged areas with a notable lack of resources, particularly in STEM-related subject areas.”
Berry said K-12 Outreach’s programs throughout the year are designed so that students have fun while learning about topics within the STEM fields. For most of the programs, students visit a Cochise College campus for hands-on activities, demonstrations and presentations. ASPIRE programs will follow suit in an effort to get students interested in science, technology, engineering and math early on, as the current workforce struggles to meet the demand of filling jobs in those fields.
“We bring in nationally-recognized STEM presentation groups of individuals who are talented scientists and teachers, and their presentations demonstrate STEM-related information in an entertaining format,” Berry said. “If we can introduce these kids to relevant, age-appropriate materials through an entertaining venue, a pathway will be established very early in their school experience that will continue to build through high school and into college.”
For more information about Cochise College’s K-12 Outreach Department and getting students involved in its programs, visit www.cochise.edu/k12 or call (520) 515-5363.