Florida

Putting Education Reform To The Test

Summer Camps Teach STEM Skills To Kids In Foster Homes

We hope the students in Jacksonville build better robots than these at their camp this week.

Dan Coulter / Flickr

We hope the students in Jacksonville build better robots than these at their camp this week.

Hundreds of kids in foster care are working on science, technology, engineering and math — otherwise known as STEM – projects this summer.

The projects are part of the Florida Department of Children and Families Camps for Champions.

“Many foster children don’t have the same opportunities to travel and learn new activities like their peers do,” said football star Derrick Brooks, who helped launch the camps in St. Petersburg this week. “These camps give them those opportunities.”

At the kick-off camp, 30 kids learned STEM skills in St. Pete. Campers in Jacksonville are teaming up to build robots this week.

“These camps give the children in our care an opportunity to partake in a summer rite of passage,” said DCF Secretary David Wilkins. “Summer camps are part of growing up.”

Starting next month, Florida foster children can attend any summer camp and extra-curricular activities with permission from their foster parents. Permission from the state legal system is not needed.

The focus on STEM at the Camps for Champions is particularly important to educators like Dr. Rebecca Waggett, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Tampa.

She helps coordinate the Science Math Master program, which strives to improve the way science and math-related subjects are taught in high school.

In a letter to the Tampa Tribune, she wrote about the need for more Florida students to pursue higher education and career paths in STEM fields.

“I have seen firsthand the difficulties presented to today’s educators in teaching science, technology, engineering and math subjects and sparking interest in the minds of their students,” Waggett wrote. “In our current state of technological advancement and economic growth, it is imperative that Florida produces graduates skilled in STEM areas to ensure that our state remains a leader in scientific and technologically-based industries.”

Instructors can take part in the Summer Math Master Summer Institute Series at the University of Tampa June 17-20 and June 24-27.

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