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The Vertex Foundation Commits $5 Million to i2 Learning to Expand STEM Education Opportunities for Students

Funding will help i2 Learning reach 75,000 students next year, up from 10,000 this year, and develop new hands-on learning programs.

 

October 23, 2018

For Marjorie Soto, seeing her students experience the ‘spark’ of imagination for the first time was enough to convince her—this is how education should be.

“I wish every week could be STEM Week,” she laughs.

Now in her 14th year as the principal of the Hurley K-8 School, a small dual language school in Boston, Marjorie leads with an educational philosophy rooted in active learning and encouraging students to “own” their education. But despite her best intentions, middle school is a challenging time.

“Students are disconnected, and engagement is low,” said Marjorie. “The only thing that’s changed during my 14 years, from an educational standards perspective, is what’s expected to be achieved, not how we achieve it.”

That is, until they implemented STEM Week—a new hands-on curriculum developed by i2 Learning—for the first time in 2016.

“We were cautious, of course, who wouldn’t be? We knew it would be disruptive and push our teachers out of their comfort zone. But what came out of that week was truly transformational. It was an awakening. ‘This is how all education should be,’ I thought. This was the future.”

During the week, all regularly scheduled classes are replaced with an interdisciplinary project-based learning module, centered on a real world problem like building a lunar colony, programming robots or solving a crime using forensic evidence.  For educators like Marjorie, providing connection to and context for the lessons is a game-changer.

“Students become scientists, astronauts, and surgeons. They see a future where a career in those fields is attainable,” she said. “That is so critically important, especially in places where families are stuck in a cycle of poverty. To get these students a better future, they need to believe it’s possible for them, not someone else.”

Expanding Opportunities to Thousands More

To bring similar transformational experiences to thousands more students and teachers, The Vertex Foundation has committed $5 million to i2 Learning to support the continued expansion of STEM Week/Month and the development of new hands-on learning modules, including one on the drug discovery process in partnership with Vertex scientists. The funding will also support the expansion of the Vertex Foundation Discovery Camp, a STEM summer camp for Boston Public School students designed and taught with i2 Learning programming.

In 2019, i2 Learning is projected to reach more than 75,000 students and 3,000 teachers in Massachusetts. 

Read More in the Boston Globe