With the national focus on science- and math-based career fields, the Philadelphia School District will host its first STEM Saturday academies next month.
The academies, which are free and open to seventh- and eighth-grade students, will be held April 11 at Mastbaum High School and April 18 at South Philadelphia High. Each session will be limited to 60 students and registration is on a first-come first-served basis.
"It's an opportunity to recruit for programs and really showcase the offerings in the school that otherwise wouldn't be showcased at this level, so we just jumped at the chance," said Nick Gasis, assistant director of the district's Career and Technical Education, of the chance to host the academies.
Students will learn about STEM-related programs, such as engineering/3-D printing, computer systems technology, electrical construction and welding, Gasis said. There will also be guidance counselors available to speak to students about career options, a question-and-answer session and a free lunch. Students are also encouraged to bring their parents.
Sponsored by the state Department of Education and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the academies have typically been offered in the suburbs or more rural parts of the state, according to Gasis. He said he hopes to make them an annual offering in the district at different sites and open it up to more students.
"I think one of the major issues that we have -- not only as a district but really this is a huge issue across the country -- is the fact that students don't really know about these programs from a younger age," Gasis said. "Historically, we have high school fairs … but that's really the number one time that schools can really show their programs and really recruit and expose younger age students to these program offerings."