American students leave much to be desired when it comes to performance in science, technology, engineering and math education.
According to the results of a recent cross-national test, the Program for International Student Assessment, U.S. students placed 35th out of 64 countries in math and 27th in science.
Florence Lowe, a former software engineer and veteran of the corporate world, recently opened The Learning Extension on Lovers Lane as one method to fill the gap in STEM curriculum.
“I wanted it as a parent, myself, and saw an opportunity in the market,” said Lowe, the mother of a 5-year-old boy. “It’s important to discuss the fact that as a country, the U.S. is slipping in the STEM area. We need to get kids interested in [STEM] at an early age.”
The Learning Extension is a STEM-focused after-school activity center for boys and girls ages 5-12. It exposes children to a variety of computer programming and coding games, including Dash and Dot robots, Lego Mindstorms, and others.
In addition to teaching basic programming skills, the center’s curriculum allows kids to become familiar with the logic of programming and problem solving.
STEM problem solving encourages the children to work in “creative ways and really think about how things interact with each other,” said Lowe. “The kids are having fun playing games, but don’t realize how much they are learning.”
Lowe said many schools in the Dallas area provide students with adequate or above-average science and math education. However, much like learning how to play the violin, it takes practice.
She said The Learning Extension is “an extension of what kids learn in school and the time parents have to spend enriching their children.”
The location opened in September and has seen enrollment grow to about 16 students. In addition to the STEM programs, it also provides homework help for those students who need it. The instructors are high school and college students who have experience and an interest in STEM education.
It might reinforce STEM gender stereotypes, but the makeup of students is 80 percent boys.
“We need more women and girls [working in STEM],” said Lowe. That is a much larger goal.