Two Kodiak Middle School students are in Anchorage this week participating in the STEM Career Explorations program. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the explorations program encourages kids to pursue those career fields by allowing them to participate in STEM-related activities at a younger age.
“So anything from going down to the Sea Life Center and dissecting a squid to building a computer with ANSEP.”
That’s Josephine Edwards-Vollertsen, a regional director for the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, also known as ANSEP. ANSEP hosts a Middle and High School Academy that provides a similar introduction and familiarization with STEM, but Edwards-Vollertsen said the career exploration sessions serve as an “inbetween” for the two academies.
“For some of our students who
participated in Middle School Academy at the youngest grade, which is
fifth grade, there was quite a big gap before they would be eligible for
our high school program. So that’s why we created this program, is to
continue to engage with our students and participate with ANSEP and STEM
activities and college readiness.”
Kodiak Middle School
Students Eli Griffin and Avrey Hansell traveled to Anchorage for the
exploration program and were able to live on University of Alaska
Anchorage’s campus while attending the sessions.
Edwards-Vollertsen said the whole idea is to get students on campus and
experience what college life might be like while encouraging them to
consider a degree within the STEM fields. She added that part of the
program also requires the student to agree, along with their parents, to
successfully complete Algebra I by 8th grade graduation.
“And we want students to do that so
that they will be on an academic track when they get into high school
for higher level math and sciences classes which will them prepare them
for entering a STEM degree at the university level.”
ANSEP was founded in 1995 by Dr. Herb Schroeder to push more Alaska Natives to enter STEM professions.
“Through his work with the university
and some research he was doing around the state he was not coming across
any Alaska Native STEM professionals. And at that time the university
had very low graduation numbers or Alaska Native students involved or
enrolled in STEM degrees.”
She said the programs offered through
ANSEP target Alaska Natives, but are open to all who are eligible. In
order to qualify for the STEM Career Explorations sessions students must
have participated in the ANSEP Middle School Academy and submit an
application and essay. They can’t have entered high school yet, and need
to have good grades and test scores, specifically in math and science.
Edwards-Vollertsen said the biggest component is that a student must
also be on track to complete the Algebra I course by the end of 8th
The explorations program is split into two five day
sessions. Last week students focused on 3-D modeling and this week they
are learning about permafrost.
Overall, Edwards-Vollertsen said
students walk away with an idea of what college life might be like, and a
greater drive to pursue a STEM degree.