Tackling the Achievement Gap with Summer STEM Options

Robotics, Coding, 3D printing, Game Design and Animation are part of Boston’s “5th Quarter of Learning” initiative aimed at closing educational achievement gaps

Dorchester, MA – July 10, 2017

The thrill of making a stop-motion animation; creating a robot; programming and learning math concepts through video game design. When students are engaged, they learn; they’re inspired. That’s the goal of the “5th Quarter of Learning,” a new component of the Boston Summer Learning Community, which currently enrolls more than 11,000 students in 110 summer programs that blend academics with activities.

The “5th Quarter of Learning,” a collaboration between Boston Public Schools and Boston After School and Beyond (BASB), is designed to assist an additional 2,200 low-income students who are falling behind in classes by offering summer enrichment opportunities that are typically only available to more affluent students. The goal is to stop and reverse the summer learning slide, which disproportionately affects students from low-income families who are at a higher risk of falling behind in English language arts and math.

One of 31 “5th Quarter of Learning” sites is the Dearborn STEM Academy in Dorchester.  Dearborn is a Boston Public School run by Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE).  Starting July 10, the school began offering special courses in robotics, animation creation, 3D printing, programming, and video game design.  

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“We are thrilled to be able to offer a STEM program to Dearborn students this summer,” says Lisa Gilbert-Smith, Head of School at the Dearborn STEM Academy.With 120 additional hours of academics, this program will not only prevent summer learning loss, but we believe it will accelerate student learning in English and mathematics. We are grateful to partner with the City of Boston, BASB, and Empow Studios to bring this opportunity to our students.”

“Working with students who speak English as a second language, with Cape Verdean Creole as their first language, has been satisfying and a lot of fun,” says technology instructor Bernardo Feliciano, who has been brought in from Empow Studios to orchestrate the STEM enrichment teaching at the site. “The students get to work on extra-curricular STEM projects and develop a supportive community at the same time. Each week we feature and introduce different technologies, adding variety and choice to what students can do as the summer progresses.”

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The Dearborn STEM Academy courses run the following weeks from 7:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.:

July 10-13: Programming: Students learn the basics of computer programming by arranging puzzle-like blocks into lines of code in a drag-&-drop graphical interface. Possible projects include video games, animations, simulators, and more.

July 17-20: Video Game Design: Participants will learn how to design and program fully functional, playable video games. Students will design sprites, levels, and character control to create maze, platform, and RPG games.

July 24-27: 3D Design & Printing: Participants will learn how to design complex 3-dimensional objects using 3D modeling tools, and use 3D printers to make their designs a reality.

July 31-Aug 3: Animation: Students use digital and stop-motion animation to bring their stories to life. Participants will create their own short animated videos while they learn the fundamentals of the valuable craft of animation.

Aug 7-10: Robotics: Participants will work in small teams to build and program autonomous robots. Adding sensors and motors allow students to create custom code to launch programs and battle their robots with friends.


Mardi Fuller
Boston Plan for Excellence – Communications Manager

David Gutierrez
Empow Studios – Director of Outreach