By Jon Allen, Site Coordinator at Nathan Bishop Middle School
PASA recently awarded STEM badges to 56 AfterZone students from five city middle schools as part of the new STEM Badge Initiative. These badges recognize students who demonstrate essential skills—problem solving, engagement, communication, perseverance, and teamwork– while participating in STEM AfterZone programs. By this summer, the badges will be housed and managed online, which will allow students to easily share their badge portfolio with family, friends, schools, and future employers. Badges affirm PASA’s belief that a student’s learning story extends beyond what can be reflected in grades. Moreover, it cultivates growth mindsets in students by celebrating their development of essential life skills and sparks a conversation about the value of these skills for future career and academic success.
Students have been integral to the design of the badges. Youth from across the AfterZone community were invited to submit their drawings that represent the five skills recognized through the badges. Ultimately, PASA chose four students’ drawings that are now the designs on the badge pins that 56 students sport on their backpacks and apparel. In the upcoming weeks, these same students will participate in a design session at (add)ventures, a communications firm in Providence. During the session, students will give their input on digital designs for the badges, gain real-world experience in media arts, and connect with professionals in the marketing and design world.
We are grateful to the Noyce Foundation for funding our STEM Badge Initiative, which is part of a larger pilot project in partnership with Boston After School & Beyond, ExpandED Schools, CitySpan, and NIOST. In addition to cultivating growth mindsets and placing value on social-emotional skills, the badges help make STEM more accessible and approachable. When a student earns a badge, she realizes that she, too, can excel in STEM, a message that may not always be conveyed through her grades.
PASA looks forward to the summer when all students are eligible for badges since all of our summer programs are STEM-based.