In the last year, we have seen a drastic increase in the number of families who have experienced a loss in annual income, leading to reduced access to educational resources. Families that were already experiencing financial hardships have experienced more obstacles than they did at the start of the pandemic.
Especially during the summer months, students across all grade levels experience learning loss to various degrees which is caused by a lack of academic environment and stimulation during the summer holidays. Knowledge and content that students have learned while in school begin to fade as they are no longer engaged and practicing on a daily basis. This was preventing further academic growth during one quarter of the year.
Many families do not have access to transportation, which is another barrier they face that prevents participation in programs. There was a real need for free and accessible resources and programs to help support families in need, as a proactive measure to prevent learning loss before the fall semester begins.
At STEM Minds, we are determined to make STEM education accessible to all. That’s why this summer, we offered free technology workshops to students who are a part of the Education Bank. We hosted three different virtual programs in August.
The first was Coding with Kodable for Grades K-2, which was available on iPads and computers with an internet connection. The other two were Video Game designs with Makecode Arcade but for divided age groups(Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8) and available on computers with internet connection.
Not only were these programs helpful to students of lower socio-economic backgrounds, but they were highly accessible by being delivered virtually. It allowed students from anywhere across the GTA, Peel, York, and Durham regions to attend the classes. Additionally, the remote format abided by COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
The contributions STEM Minds has made through a partnership with the Education Bank have greatly benefitted the mission to provide equity in education. The biggest obstacle these students faced was the ability to take part in these programs that may not be offered at model schools and certainly were not financially accessible during the summer. By removing the financial barrier to these programs, STEM Minds was able to support these students to prevent learning loss in coding subjects. The Make Code Arcade and Coding with Kodable programs are valuable learning tools that make information easy to process while ensuring learning is enjoyable for students. In addition to that, ensuring this program was available to participate in virtually allowed students from all over the city to benefit from virtual coding lessons. The Education Bank’s goal is to continue making education accessible to low-income communities by continuing to offer virtual opportunities made available by STEM Minds.
CANADA’S FIRST EDUCATION BANK provides free school supplies, technology, and learning programs to kids living in poverty in the GTA, Peel, York, and Durham. We are completely committed to providing an equitable education for our kids. STEM MINDS has had a major impact on our work by providing coding, video game design, and engaging our kids in tech. Since all our kids are BIPOC, with a large number of Black and Indigenous students, who are so underrepresented in the tech industry. It is sometimes a lot of arm-twistings to make them believe they can learn and grow into jobs of the future that can offer them a better life than they live today. When they join these sessions, they are inspired with dreams for their future. It is so important that companies, like STEM MINDS, remain committed to those who only need to be raised up in order to accomplish their dreams for the future. Anu Bidani is a community builder and supporter, who has really helped make tech fun and engaging for our kids. Thank you is not enough.