Too many children are left out of the very activities that will define their future world. There is no opportunity for them to learn coding, computational thinking, or Computer Science. They never have a chance to imagine something new and then create it in a Maker Space. They never get to design and build their own working robot. They rarely experience hands-on, project-based learning in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, digital Arts, and Mathematics). These young people are, in effect, being deprived of their own future.
The statistics are especially troubling for foster youth. Many foster youth have experienced abuse and neglect, whereas few have learned coding or experienced STEAM enrichment. In California, these children will have attended an average of 7-9 different schools by age 18. Less than half will graduate from high school; only 2% will graduate from college. Among those who age out of the system at age 18, within 2-4 years:
Although the statistics are slightly less extreme for non-foster, socioeconomically disadvantaged children, and all girls, organizations such as the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation still report very discouraging statistics among groups large enough to degrade overall U.S. economic competitiveness. For example: while 71% of average-income students achieve "basic proficiency" in Grade 12 math, only 44% of low-income students reach that level. While 75% of Whites achieve it, only 45% of Latinos, and 36% of Blacks, do. While 66% of English-proficient students reach basic math proficiency, only 20% of English language learners do. Similarly, Silicon Valley firms typically report fewer than 25% of technical/management positions going to females.
We can change this. Learningtech.org offers outstanding out-of-school enrichment and in-class coaching, as well as professional development for educators. Offering coding, making, robotics, and other high-tech STEAM activities to children can change their lives. During the last year, philanthropic support from both individuals and foundations enabled us to grant scholarships to numerous underserved students, enabling them to participate in compelling offerings.
Over the summer, for example, we served 18 foster youth, providing 35 student-weeks of STEAM camp enrichment, with nearly 100% attendance (rare success for fosters in these types of programs). For most, this meant two full weeks of hands-on learning, making new friends, and inclusion in the general camper population as a "regular kid." We also offered special topics and outreach for girls, as well as scholarships for non-foster, socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Our own informal pre/post surveys tended to support reports from the University of Missouri that, of students who attend science enrichment programs, 45% report higher academic confidence overall, with 62% reporting higher confidence in the field of science. They also observed that these effects are intensified for low-income kids. Campers such as Juan tell us, "The one thing I would change is that I would come back again next week -- that everyone could. My teacher teached (sic) me lots of stuff I never thought I could do!"
Learningtech.org has earned Top Rated status with Great Nonprofits several years in a row. Our booth at 2016 Bay Area Maker Faire received the Editor's Choice Best in Class award for our emphasis on hands-on, learning-by-making. A sample presentation, from the California Department of Education's annual STEM conference, can be viewed here: http://learningtech.org/stem-foster-20151030/. Our Spring 2016 Newsletter is available here: http://learningtech.org/img/spring_2016_newsletter.pdf. A video illustrates our in-school Computer Science efforts in partnership with classroom teachers: http://learningtech.org/workshops/cunha-video.shtml. We have received many 5-star reviews, such as this one:
As an elementary Technology Specialist, I heard Dr. Miller speak at a conference and was impressed with the extent of the program and focus on deep learning and rigor. I visited a camp over the summer to see the work in action, and frankly to 'borrow' some of their ideas, and came away even more impressed. Students were engaged in serious study in a variety of challenging technical activities. There was also a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion. I particularly enjoyed the class designed to encourage girls, which included making a 'technified' stuffed animal. I've since implemented the same program at my own school to great success. Lots of people are talking about extending technology to younger students - these people are actually doing it effectively.
Your support makes our work possible. Even the strongest of programs cannot sustainably reach the underserved without ongoing philanthropy. It costs about $500 to include an underserved child in our all-day, 1-week summer camp. A $50 donation supports a child's participation for half a day. For foster youth, costs are increased by as much as a factor of three, since we must provide transportation, an onsite social worker, before and after care, and other supports including social-emotional learning, after-camp math tutoring, career exploration, and digital literacy. This season, we hope to raise $15,000 from private donors; but any amount helps. Please be generous. Help us create a better future for these young people!
We are a 501(c)(3), so your donation is tax-deductible. Our I.R.S. determination letter is available online. A variety of payment methods are available.