Summer Brings Aerospace to Michigan K-8 Students
For 354 K-8 students and 37 staff in Pontiac and Michigan’s upper peninsula, summer was out of this world.
Playgrounds and paved lots quickly transformed into makeshift mission control centers, with students buzzing around with excitement as they built, tested, and modified rockets and gliders as part of a 10-week aerospace-themed A World In Motion® (AWIM®) Summer STEM Immersion.
Inspiring Curiosity in STEM
When students weren’t competing in distance challenges and other hands-on STEM activities, they were having fun learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion, gravity, thrust, and the relationships between data analysis and variable manipulations.
“The challenge for many students in Pontiac and other communities throughout Michigan is they just don’t see themselves in STEM. By providing these fun, hands-on learning experiences, they start to realize they can be an engineer or a scientist or study math even if nobody in their family has ever done it. AWIM helps to create those “Aha” moments,” said Rosana Hull, Pontiac Engineering Center Campus Management and Community Relations Organizer at General Motors and 20+ year AWIM volunteer. Hull was instrumental in orchestrating the collaboration between SAE and the Pontiac United Education Coalition.
Boosting Creativity & Cooperation
Beyond the aerospace theme and hands-on STEM learning experiences, one other unique element of the Summer AWIM Immersion centers on mindfulness and a social/emotional learning component. Thanks to a partnership with the Mindfulness Institute of Michigan (MIMI), students learned Social Emotional Learning Skills (SEL) to help with creativity and cooperation during the AWIM activities. Throughout the program, MIMI also provided teacher training and involved parents in a coaching program to support SEL practices at home.
Helping Students Avoid the Summer Slide
Every summer parents and teachers worry about the “summer slide” where students are believed to lose some of what they learned during the school year, underscoring the critical need for summer learning acceleration–especially in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
By providing students in Pontiac and Michigan’s upper peninsula with fun, hands-on aerospace-themed STEM challenges, they were able to stay engaged over the summer months with nearly all educators reporting improvement in students’ skills in science, critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, social interaction, communication, inquiry and analysis, and math.