It’s A Wrap
SMASH’s 2020 Summer Academy was like no other. When the pandemic hit, we realized it wouldn’t be safe for our scholars and staff to host our Summer Academy as our hallmark residential program on a university campus. Within thirty days, SMASH’s program team developed an engaging and STEM intensive virtual program.
In creating SMASH’s virtual program, we wanted to ensure we maximized our opportunity to connect and engage with our scholars. This is why we reduced our scholar:faculty ratio from 15:1 to 5:1. Plus, all scholars had one-on-one weekly meetings with their facilitators. And, whenever possible, we implemented co-facilitation within the classroom. This allowed one facilitator to provide direct instruction while the other facilitator was available to troubleshoot technical issues, provide differentiated instruction and diverse perspectives, and give one-to-one instructional support, as needed.
With the current environmental landscape, we positioned this year’s project based learning on finding solutions that utilizes augmented reality to the challenges caused by COVID-19. Our scholars had the opportunity to engage in a multitude of electives conducted by professors from our university partners. A bonus of going virtual, scholars across all eight sites had the opportunity to participate in an elective that is outside of their geographic location.
To ensure every scholar could fully participate in Summer Academy, we conducted a Pre-Tech assessment to identify gaps in technological needs. Based on the assessment, SMASH provided scholars with noise cancelling headphones and green screens. Scholars with limited internet access were provided with hotspots and those without sufficient computers were provided loaners.
Our virtual program was conducted using Google Classroom and we leveraged zoom and slack for direct and immediate communication. We used Hoverlay, Miro, and Figma as our tools for instructing our scholars on Augmented Reality. At the end of Summer Academy, each site hosted a pitch competition. The winners went on to compete at the regional level, and those winners went on to compete at SMASH’s inaugural National STEM Competition.
And, if that wasn’t enough, SMASH Midwest Scholars participated in a Social Justice Project. Scholars from Illinois and Wayne State University were intermingled in groups. Groups produced a final visual project with research information using TikTok, a slide presentation with a voice over, or a voice-over infographic. Project topics focused on:
- Identifying a person who had lost their life due to anti-racism
- Research an organization that is actively fighting anti-blackness
- Brainstorming ways they could get involved in the efforts to fight anti-blackness
As we embarked on Summer Academy, we were wary of our ability to effectively develop community, but we were pleasantly surprised at the relationships developed between our facilitators and scholars and our scholars with each other. Especially when you consider that we condensed our program from five weeks to three weeks (15 days)! By being virtual, our scholars could interact with scholars from other regions and experience multiple STEM career pathways/opportunities because guest speakers could be located anywhere.
This year’s Summer Academy was definitely a success. Not only were our scholars provided with SMASH’s hallmark intensive STEM program, but they also experienced how to effectively learn and work remotely. This group of future leaders will not let barriers stop them from making a positive social impact.