How to engage kids in STEM? The answer is at PAZ!

Leaders of a network of after-school programs in Nashville wanted to find out what it would take to get kids engaged in STEM. They believe they've found an answer after making a site visit  - all the way to our PAZ After-School Program at PS 214 elementary school in the Bronx.  

"It is hard to believe that a one-hour site visit turned out to be the missing puzzle piece in a six-month planning process," reported Marielle Lovecchio in a story on the website Every Hour Counts.

The group's guide was PAZ director Adam Torres (photo at right), whose "passion for his work was evident from the moment we met," Lovecchio reports.  The visitors watched an activity in which students worked in teams to find out exactly how many milliliters it would take to fill up their "lake" (a plastic container) to capacity. 
"The challenge captivated the students' attention, and the student-driven exploration led to high levels of interaction and engagement," says Lovecchio.  But why?  
"As we reflected on the site visit, we wondered what really made the students care about this activity. Was it the fact that it was presented as a challenge? The possibility that one group could finish the work more quickly than another group? Or that one group could ultimately be the most precise? Any of these could have been the reason, but it's likely that the high level of student engagement derived from another source: the students were challenged to save the lake by measuring the lake's capacity so that animals could survive."
Lovecchio concludes:  "For fun, engaging STEM, formal and community educators should collaborate to spark students' interest, preview STEM vocabulary and concepts, connect those concepts to students' real-world context, and present students with a challenge where they have the power to help change what's possible with their STEM skills."