i2 began with a 9 year old girl who liked to solve problems
School was fine, reading was fine, math was fine, but making something with her own hands was what she really liked, especially if it was something useful.
Recognizing the power of that sentiment a number of educators set out to create a program to provide those learning opportunities for middle school students throughout the world; and to reimagine how our children are educated.
We collaborated with 20 of the world’s leading STEM organizations
With curriculum partners that included MIT, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and The Museum of Science in Boston, an initial program was started outside of school, during the summer months. i2 launched in three locations: Boston, New York and New Jersey. Over 400 kids were exposed to hands-on, project-based learning in STEM courses such as Building an Interactive Friendly Monster, Crash Test Engineering and Fun with DNA.
The success of the program was immediate and obvious to all who participated or observed. Parents regularly commented on how they had never seen their children so excited about learning, teachers and outside evaluators from Teachers College, Columbia University and Harvard School of Education commented on how engaged the students were in the classroom, and kids themselves regularly wrote in feedback forms, “This is awesome” and “i2 rocks!”
Building on this success, we developed partnerships with more leading STEM organizations such as Stanford, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Wyss Institute at Harvard. The next summer the i2 program was grown to run in 23 different locations across the US as well as in Amman, Jordan and Nairobi, Kenya.
Now we’re partnering with schools to bring the program into the regular school year
STEM immersion weeks are being set up for 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders in a wide range of STEM topics not usually found in regular middle school curricula. Students and teachers are being exposed to a different approach to learning science and math providing opportunities for all students to gain confidence and interest in these important fields.
While it will take time to measure the impact of these immersion programs, there have already been a number of successes. Teachers report that children show a stronger interest in science courses in school after attending the summer program. Parents have seen a stronger interest in STEM-related after-school programming such as Robotics or Maker Fairs from their kids.
As for the girl who inspired the program, after four weeks of i2, she told her mother as she was going to bed one night: “I want to go to MIT and become an engineer.”