Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy (SEMAA) is one of the core programs of the STEM Center, and has served over 34,000 children in grades K-12th since 2009. The mission of SEMAA is to utilize its unique resources and the communities to engage historically underrepresented K-12 youth in STEM activities. The goals are to offer academic enrichment and career awareness, engage students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning, provide professional development for teachers in STEM fields, and to involve parents in their child’s education in a non-threatening and respectful way.
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How SEMAA serves Students
SEMAA provides after-school programs in schools all over the state of New Mexico. SEMAA instructors work with the school’s teachers so that what is learned after school can be integrated into in-class science instruction. Different themes are used for each grade level; therefore, students enjoy participating year after year. Three components make up the program: the academic aspect, the laboratory projects, and the family festivals. To ensure our teachers are prepared, we have a “professional development Saturday” to get them comfortable with our curriculum. We go through lessons so that the instructors experience the same inquiry and active learning that the students will. The teachers are provided the resources they need to implement each lesson per grade level. All supplies are put in a tub/resource kit and organized by lesson. The kits are theirs to keep and use.
The STEM Center works with the schools to determine the best organizational vehicle for SEMAA (and/or other programs) and the format to present. For example, SEMAA and the other programs can be rolled out through the school districts or through community organizations such as a Boys and Girls Club. Whatever the presentation venue, SEMAA staff helps the district configure the program to fit their organizational structure, help to plan lessons, and make the resource kits fit to fit their needs.
As noted, each grade level has a different theme. For kindergarteners, the theme is “kinder-gardeners”; the first grade theme is “recyclemania”; second grade is “aqua learning”; third grade is wind energy; fourth grade is solar energy; and fifth grade introduces STEM via science topics in children’s literature.
Finally, the vital Family Festival component of SEMAA is always incorporated into the program. We invite families to attend a session, meet with instructors, and work with their child on a STEM-related problem. Everyone is engaged and excited! Families become a dynamic part of the team, and together we make a multi-tiered support system for each child. DiMA (Digital Media Academy) ─ 2nd-8th grades DiMA provides students with opportunities to develop strong science/mathematics skills using technology as a tool (rather than an end in itself). In the long term, this helps prepare the students for a successful career in the 21st century, and, in the short term, decrease the “digital divide” between students in economically advantaged communities and those who are not.