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 Championing STEM in Expanded Learning Programs

Dozens of expanded learning educators were celebrated this month for their work on incorporating STEM into before- and after-school programs.

The STEM Champions Celebration was the end-of-year event for the districts involved in the Power of Discovery: STEM Hub Initiative, a year-long effort that provided guidance, training, and collaboration for the development of high-quality STEM programs.

The San Diego County Office of Education's Region 9 Technical Assistance Center​ (RTAC) is one of only five regional hubs across the state implementing the Power of Discovery: STEM Hub Initiative, a project by the California Department of Education After School Division.

"STEM learning should be rigorous whether it's happening in the regular school day or after school. Through the STEM Hub Initiative, RTAC is building the capacity of expanded learning professionals to provide high-quality STEM opportunities to youth in programs from across the region," said Christine Carrera, SDCOE Project Specialist for Expanded Learning programs.

Isabel Vargas, a 6th grader at Twin Peaks Middle School in Poway Unified School District, was invited to the event to showcase the robot she and her teammates built in an expanded learning program.

"The best thing about after-school is that you don't have to just do your homework," she said.

The STEM Champions Celebration was held at Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego, in partnership with its Thinkabit Lab. It featured an exhibition of the projects created through the STEM Hub Initiative and awards ceremony.

SDCOE recognized four local expanded learning programs that are part of the Power of Discovery: STEM Hub Initiative:

  • YMCA of San Diego County's Child and Youth Development Programs received the Rising Star award for its exemplary efforts in increasing STEM learning opportunities across all of its expanded learning programs through widespread systemic efforts.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Oceanside received the Next Gen. Educator award for its commitment to increasing the rigor of STEM learning opportunities in expanded learning programs to greater align with state academic standards in math and science.
  • South Bay Union School District and Escondido Union School District both received the STEM Strong Champions award for their leadership in working with their provider agency community partners to invest time and resources for staff members to receive ongoing professional development and materials that increase knowledge and capacity to provide students with high-quality STEM learning opportunities in expanded learning programs.

The STEM Champions Celebration also marks the launch of the STEM Hub Initiative's 2016-17 community of practice. The community of practice provides ongoing professional learning and support to expanded learning educators who are interested in increasing high-quality STEM learning opportunities in their programs.

If your organization or school district is interested in participating in the 2016-17 STEM Communities of Practice, email Carrera at