Local elementary school students are taking advantage of a national grant to take part in 4-H Tech Wizards, a small group mentoring program that utilizes STEM training.
The program, in its first year at Springfield Elementary as part of the Fort Mill Boys and Girls Club, and for the second year at Northside Elementary with the Rock Hill branch of the club, is made possible through a federal grant from the National 4-H Council and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The 12-month program is a small group STEM mentoring program offering weekly tech-related activities and mentoring in after-school and summer learning environments. This program offers a variety of activities with a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math STEM skills.
“This spring we’ve focused on coding using robotics,” said Site Coordinator Abigail Phillips, who works for the Clemson University Cooperative Extension that oversees the program.
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“We use Sphero and Ozobot robotics to teach introductory coding and logic skills. Throughout the year, students are introduced to a wide range of STEM activities in order to spark an interest in STEM careers.”
The goals of the program are to learn life and leadership skills, build positive relationships with adult mentors and peers and to learn about STEM topics such as robotics, coding and the engineering design process. The grant has been available for the past seven years, and South Carolina has received it each year.
Phillips has been with the program for six years. She came to York County last year to work with kids at Northside Elementary, but this is the first year Tech Wizards has partnered with county Boys and Girls clubs. While Phillips has overseen programs that had over 300 students in Sumter and Richland counties, significant cuts to to the grant has them currently serving around 75 kids here. She said the program is not actively recruiting, pending what’s available in the next funding cycle.
The program began in February and will run through January 2018, when, if the program is approved for another year under the grant, it will start up with a whole new group of kids.
While the program is going strong, there is a need for volunteers and mentors. There will be a training opportunity later this month for prospective volunteers, and Phillips said they are needed at all three of the sites.
“We are in desperate need of volunteers who are interested in making a difference in the lives of children in our community“ she said. “We are seeking supportive adults willing to serve as mentors or guest STEM presenters at club meetings.”
“We are in desperate need of volunteers,” she said. “They would need to be available two to four hours per month to provide a healthy role model in a child’s life.”
Program mentors are needed to assist students with program projects and to encourage positive youth development. Mentors do not need prior STEM or mentoring experience. Mentor training and ongoing support will be provided throughout the year. Mentors should be available between 4 and 6 p.m. on either Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Want to volunteer?
Interesting in working with kids involved in a STEM program? Contact Abigail Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-473-0833.