The partnership between Peak Education and The Colorado Springs School provides a hands-on science and technology camp experience to students throughout the Pikes Peak region.
Building and programming robots, dance therapy, and dissecting sheep brains are just a few of the many immersive learning activities middle schoolers take part in each summer through the Full STEAM Ahead program at The Colorado Springs School (CSS). Participants in the complimentary program include Peak Education Middle School Scholars from school districts across the Pikes Peak region, who spend two weeks exploring technology, the arts and science at CSS and around Colorado Springs. “This camp provides students with insight into just how fun learning can be,” says Program Director Amy Miller, English teacher at CSS.
The Full STEAM Ahead program is led by CSS faculty, like Miller, along with high school student mentors, and it promotes experiential and project-based learning principles that have been fundamental for nearly 60 years at The Colorado Springs School. The 45 scholars enjoy experiential learning projects and activities, such as building robots, writing fantasy stories, bouldering, learning to cook and designing a prototype trash compactor. Students also benefit from thematic field trips in partnership with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, Borealis Fat Bikes, the Space Foundation Discovery Center, Pure Bouldering Gym, Pikes Peak Makerspace and more.
“I learned so many things about my brain and how it controls all of my senses,” said one rising seventh-grade participant. “Learning all of that made me want to look into more on my own.”
Founded in 2012, the Full STEAM Ahead program is funded by donations from the Carl George Bjorkman Foundation and the Edson Foundation. In conjunction with The Colorado Springs School and Peak Education, the program includes free lunch, snacks and transportation. For the 45 Full STEAM Ahead participants in 2021, the opportunity could not have come at a better time.
“After a year of online learning and inconsistent schedules [due to COVID-19], Full STEAM Ahead was a refreshing reintroduction into how learning should be,” said Carlos Jimenez, CEO of Peak Education. “Hands-on educational opportunities combined with a nurturing and caring community helped to re-energize our student’s love for learning and provided them with great momentum for the new school year.”
Despite coming together from a number of different schools, the middle schoolers “bonded almost instantaneously and made the most of every moment, whether building robots and writing fantasy stories or bouldering and learning to cook healthy on a budget,” said CSS faculty member Caren Goldberg. On the last day of camp, students celebrated their newfound friendships and academic accomplishments with a pizza party and open house for families.
Students also benefited from thematic field trips and experiences made possible in partnership with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, Borealis Fat Bikes, the Space Foundation Discovery Center, Pure Bouldering Gym, Pikes Peak Makerspace and more. Other businesses visited The Colorado Springs School campus to assist with hands-on activities and demonstrations. For example, Josh & John’s Ice Cream led an ice cream-making demonstration. The 2021 program provided a chance for local businesses and organizations to reconnect with the greater community once again after pandemic-related restrictions and limitations.
“One student told me his school is very low income and he rarely gets to go on field trips; that this was the first one he had been on in years,” said Carissa L., a CSS junior and Full STEAM Ahead mentor. “He was really excited, and it meant a lot to be a part of that.”
Through a partnership with area middle and high schools, Peak Education closes educational opportunity gaps for students from low-income backgrounds. The majority of Full STEAM Ahead participants are Peak Education Scholars entering seventh, eighth or ninth grades at partner schools in Harrison District 2, Colorado Springs District 11 and Manitou Springs District 14. Scholars are identified by their teachers and counselors in sixth and seventh grades as having high potential for academic and postsecondary success, and they receive educational enrichment, mentoring, college counseling and scholarship preparation services through Peak Education.