Thornton Township to offer STEM and STEAM programs for students and families

by Ernst Lamothe

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (May 2, 2019) – Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli and the Thornton Township Board of Trustees will sponsor STEM/STEAM Programs in Thornton Township. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has implications for workforce development, national security concerns, and immigration policy. STEAM represents STEM plus the Arts—humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design, and new media.

According to NPJ [Nature Partner Journals] Science of Learning, for educators, there is now a greater need for STEM concepts to integrate with the arts (STEAM) across the wider curriculum. This is because business and industry broadcast that future-ready employees need to have multiple areas of expertise, or at least appreciate how a range of skills fit together.

Enriching Township lives

Thornton Township is the largest township in the State of Illinois and will seek to implement programs to target minority students.

Dr. Jerry Weems, head of the STEM/STEAM programs and Thornton Township’s Director of Youth & Family Services said, “Through our innovative STEM/STEAM [grant] proposal, Thornton Township proposes to serve all 17 cities and towns that constitute Thornton Township. Those municipalities include: South Holland, Calumet City, Harvey, Riverdale, Dolton, Phoenix, Blue Island, Lansing, Hazel Crest, East Hazel Crest, Glenwood, Thornton, Dixmoor, Burnham, Homewood, Markham, Posen and others.”

“Our principal objectives are to foster a learning environment throughout the educational school year and summer months that focuses on enriching the lives of our student participants and their families culturally, socially, scholastically, and physically by offering structured, creative, active, and integrative programming that strategically embeds heart-centered, community-based STEM/STEAM philosophies and curriculum throughout its design,” stated Weems.

STEM and STEAM

The main difference between STEM and STEAM is STEM explicitly focuses on scientific concepts. STEAM investigates the same concepts, but does this through inquiry and problem-based learning methods used in the creative process.

NPJ Science of Learning also states that STEAM education in schools provides students with the opportunity to learn creatively, using 21st-century skills such as problem solving. These general capabilities are crucial to growing a future-ready workforce that understands the potential of “what if” when solving problems that occur in real life.

This education also points in the direction of 22nd century skills—connection, care, community, and culture.

Weems continues: “Our target population is primarily lower and working class African-American, Latino, and White students (boys and girls) from pre-K through high school. The program endeavors to work with over 300 students, their caregivers (approximately 450), approximately 100 youth and adult staff, and 50 volunteers. So, we anticipate working with a total of 900 individuals throughout the administration of this grant.”

Expanded partnership

Thornton Township will sponsor the 2019 Free Summer Camp Program emphasizing STEM. The program will be headed up by India Blakely, Program Developer. According to Ms. Blakely, “This year’s Summer STEM Program (also known as Summer Enrichment Program) has extended in several ways. First, we have expanded our partnerships to include Law & Civics, Reading & Writing Institute, 29th District Representative Thaddeus Jones, Illinois Math & Science Academy, Jones Foundation, and South Suburban College. These new partnerships have allowed us to expand our STEM curriculum and capacity. My role as a Program Developer gives me the opportunity to bring the pieces together to offer high quality programming to Thornton Township residents ages 7–13. Not only has our partner base extended, but our core planning and developing team bring knowledge and experience to significantly help the wonderful residents of Thornton Township grow. Our instruction and activities in STEM and other areas of knowledge are powerful tools.”

According to Thornton Township’s flyer the 2019 Free Summer Camp Program runs June 10 through August 1.

The Monday–Thursday, 9:00am–3:00pm, classes are for ages 7-13 years old. The Friday and Saturday classes are also 9:00am–3:00pm, all ages (Early childhood, Youth, Adults, and Seniors).

The program is open only to Township residents.

For Registration, both the parent/legal guardian and the youth must be present:

  • Bring a valid state ID/driver’s license showing Thornton Township address
  • Bring a utility bill that matches above ID
  • Bring most recent Report Card, Progress Report, and School Physical

For more information regarding Thornton Township’s Summer STEM Program, contact Ms. India Blakely at 708-596-6040, x2015.

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