A unique program has come to Northview Elementary School in Bowie that will give its extended day students an opportunity to get a leg up in science.

Grade A Teaching and Learning, founded by former Howard University Dean of the Office of Residence Life Charles Gibbs, has brought a program to the school meant to enhance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills among students. It will use students, parents and teachers to foster a learning environment that will provide post-school day structure for the students.

In the program, students will begin by eating a healthy snack and then moving on to a physical activity. Students will then begin activities that focus on character building, problem solving and critical thinking. According to Grade A, the students will be solving murder mysteries, treasure hunts, “broken squares” and “across the river” activities.

The program is the latest in an effort by many organizations to propel minorities, especially African Americans and women into STEM careers. There is a paucity of minority role models in STEM fields, which is why promoting careers at these ages is critical.

“In my own experience, I didn’t have the guidance,” said Harry Washington, whose Bowie-based Pursuing a Dream Corporation provides guidance for students pursuing degrees and careers in the STEM field. “I didn’t have guidance at school and I didn’t have guidance at home. It wasn’t like I didn’t see it, it just wasn’t there.”

Getting African Americans involved in science and tech fields seems to be a problem at every level as well. There is no difference in the percentage of Blacks and Whites wanting to major in STEM careers, but there is marked difference in graduation rates and in the workforce.

“Something happens between the freshman year and graduating with a baccalaureate degree,” said Kelly Mack, program officer with the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program. “We know that something happens again in the transition from the baccalaureate degree to graduate school and other transition points that the NSF is interested in.”

What happens, according to some is discouragement, and according to others, racism. Several successful minorities in STEM careers say they were faced with barriers that their White counterparts weren’t subjected to, but it was important for them to persevere.

“Although discrimination may have some truth to it, don’t get so caught up in that because what that does is weigh on the inside of you,” said Charles Buntin, a program manager with the Federal Aviation Administration said at the forum. “Discouragement will paralyze you and stop you from doing anything.”

The students will have time for homework and class work review and will not just be doing activities tailored around the STEM field. They’ll also engage in critical thinking and writing workshops and book clubs. For more information on the program, visit www.gradeausa.com.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO