The absolute necessity for educational curriculums to prioritize science, technology, engineering and math instruction, known commonly as STEM, has been stressed at every level, from the U.S. Department of Education on down.
A group of middle-schoolers in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District recently got a healthy dose of STEM instruction, while learning to be collaborative and be creative at the same time.
With college students who are pursuing their own STEM fields serving as mentors, students from all six district middle schools developed mobile game apps through AppJam+, an initiative of Dreams for Schools, a nonprofit that manages a variety of technology-based afterschool programs.
To culminate the 10-week program that began in September, some 30 teams of four students each showed off their mobile apps at the Fall Showcases Finale, held Nov. 29 in the performing arts center at El Dorado High School.
Throughout the process, the students took on the roles of programmers, engineers, coders and testers.
“They are preparing for careers that don’t even exist yet,” said Cary Johnson, the district’s director of K-12 Innovations and Technology. “Regardless of where the future goes, they will be able to adapt and be successful.”
After trying AppJam+ at Valdez Middle School last year, Johnson was certain he wanted to institute the afterschool program district wide.
“I was sold, hook, line and sinker,” Johnson said. “I realized this fit right in and was something I wanted all of our middles schools to have access to.”
A portion of the district’s $6 million California Career Pathway Trust grant was used to fund the program.
Student participation was voluntary.
“I’ve always been interested in coding and computers, and I thought this would be a good way to start,” said Michael Bakke, a student at Yorba Linda Middle School, who developed the app Z-POCOLYPS with Henry Xu, Robert Reyes and Ian Staton.
Their app requires the player to answer STEM-related questions to stave off zombie annihilation.
“It’s been really fun for me to work with my teammates,” Bakke said. “I’m excited about going more into STEM.”
The student teams devised their own screen designs, audio, sound effects and animation.
Awards were given to the top four teams. Members of the first-place RPG Crew from Yorba Linda Middle School received a Chrome Book.
Team Mystery and Team Ninja, both from Tuffree, took second and third respectively; Team…