Preparing for Blast Off! NASA STEM EPDC Supports Summer Engineering Camp

As countless educators from around the country plan and organize vacation plans, a group of committed educators from San Marcos C.I.S.D. prepare to engage in a unique summer camp that aims to develop, inspire, and nurture the next generation of aerospace-engineers and mathematicians. Earlier this month, NASA STEM EPDC facilitated an intensive day and a half long professional development (PD) for primary and secondary school educators from San Marcos C.I.S.D. The training also included preservice teachers from Texas State University. The PD aimed to prepare educators for the annual upcoming summer camp, Future Aerospace-engineering and Mathematicians Academy better known as FAMA. FAMA is part of a national effort funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP), is designed to improve early awareness opportunities for children to learn about STEM careers and opportunities through preparation. The program specifically targets historically underserved and underrepresented students in STEM disciplines. For the past three years, FAMA has provided yearlong programing concentrated in the San Marcos, Texas and has quickly become a valued resource in the community.

The PD, which was hosted at the local cultural arts center, Hispano Cultural Hispano de San Marcos, engaged STEM educators in a variety of individual and collective activities that explored STEM based topics, resources, and pedagogical approaches. The facilitation of the PD employed interactive, dialogical, and reflective methods that integrated technology and cross-curricular concepts. The educators actively participated in NASA based lessons designed to promote curiosity, problem solving and cooperative learning skills. The participants were also exposed to curriculum design, discipline based content, and instructional methods for enacting culturally responsive teaching in the classroom.

Success of the program is dependent of the partnership and cohesiveness of Texas State University, San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD), and Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos community center. The program includes four components which support and build momentum in STEM education yet independent of each other so families have choice in what they choose to participate according to their availability. One component is Family Café which provides students and their families in grades 3-8 opportunities throughout the school year to attend NASA Family Café nights. Students and their families engage in conversations of the importance of STEM and go through the engineering design process by working on NASA Engineering Design activities. Another component is taking engineering design to all families through NASA Exploration Family Backpacks. Students in grades 4-5 take home an extension of the NASA Engineering activity home to work with their families in a cultural responsive way. Students also utilize up to 36 hours of STEM instruction through a week-long summer camp. For the fourth component, EPDC and FAMA have partnered to kick off their third year of the program by providing yearlong learning opportunities in the San Marcos community.

Samuel Garcia and Sara Garcia-Torres
Educator Professional Development Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
Texas State University