Horizons at The Ethel Walker School hosted a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Olympics Exposition (Expo) on Friday, July 30 at Walker’s Simsbury campus.
The Expo was part of STEAM programming offered during Horizons’ six-week summer program which encourages young girls to explore fields outside of a typical school day, and to see themselves as scientists, innovators, and creative leaders. Horizons program participants are underserved students from Greater Hartford public schools. In order to participate in the Horizons program, students must qualify for free or reduced meal programs. Women of color are the most underrepresented population in STEAM including Aisha Bowe, an engineer at NASA and CEO of STEMBoard who was once told by a guidance counselor to go to cosmetology school.
The Expo was made possible through a partnership with the LEGO(R) Community Fund which works to provide learning through play opportunities to underserved communities throughout the world. Through the LEGO partnership, Horizons at The Ethel Walker School offers girls of color the opportunity to explore topics like computational thinking, physics, and engineering through experimentation and play, which allows students to see themselves as scientists, creators, and innovators. Research has shown that students learning through play in an environment which supports social and emotional learning is one of the most important methods for students to acquire essential knowledge. By funding programs such as the STEAM Expo, LEGO Group supports the United Nation’s fourth development goal that by 2030, “all girls and boys will have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”
“Events like The Olympics Expo make us proud to be a partner of Horizons at The Ethel Walker School,” said Skip Kodak, President of LEGO Americas. “Our research shows that creative building helps children learn about themselves and the world around them, especially in STEAM subjects. We happily support this event and all Horizons programs which build important life skills and aid in a child’s development.”
The Expo included an Olympic Village where students representing different countries played with LEGO bricks to create projects and they reviewed the Women’s STEAM Wall of Fame. Students raced boats that they engineered to float and participated in a triathlon with Bee Bot Robots, which introduces students to computational thinking and commands. Students explored physics by creating catapults that shot basketballs and “The Tour de Marbles” which explored the forces that made the marble move fastest.
Princess Hyatt, Executive Director of Horizons at The Ethel Walker School, has seen firsthand how the STEAM programming has allowed students to approach problem-solving with confidence and creativity. She says, “Our students have the chance to actively participate in STEAM challenges; to be scientists and innovators at a time where there are few recognized women of color leaders in the field. We are building the next generation here, and our ongoing LEGO partnership has provided us with the tools to center our girls in this program and empower them for the future.”
Horizons at The Ethel Walker School is an affiliate of Horizons National and is the first all-girls Horizons program in the nation which serves underserved students in Greater Hartford. Six weeks of summer programming aims to improve students’ educational outcomes and anchors year-round academic enrichment programming. During the six-week, full-day summer enrichment program, students engage in academics, swimming, athletics, and STEAM. Girls enter the program their Kindergarten year and return each year through eighth grade.
The aim of Horizons is to help underserved students improve their educational outcomes by reducing the long-term academic decline in school that is correlated to the “summer slide,” or summer learning loss that is caused by lack of access to summer learning opportunities which compound over time. Programs like the STEAM Expo are crucially important to the mission of Horizons at The Ethel Walker School in preventing summer learning loss while building the next generation of creative leaders in underserved girls of color.