Inspiring Youth towards STEM Careers
By Dr. Robert Dillon, Director of Innovative Learning – School District of University City
As a teacher and school leader, it is always interesting to see what sticks six months later. About six month ago, Brittany Woods Middle School at the School District of University City hosted a CyberPatriot Cyber Camp for a group of our middle school students in partnership with the Midwest Cyber Center and Scott Air Force Base. This was our first effort to bring the concepts of cybersecurity to our students. Many of the students came to the event because they liked computers or because it sounded fun. All of them left with a better appreciation for the complexities of cybersecurity and interest in knowing more.
Many of our students don’t get to experience fun camps and activities in the summer, and this partnership was one of the ways that the district has been working to close this experience gap for our students. A few weeks ago, I saw a couple of the middle school students that participated in the weeklong event. Their first question was whether we would be doing the camp again and the second question was the one that caught my attention. They started asking about the individual airmen from Scott Air Force Base that sat side-by-side with them to unpack and unlock the challenges of the camp. They were wondering if I had talked to them. They asked if the same guy would be coming back. I guess I hadn’t realized the impact that this camp would have in humanizing our military and the services that they provide. I remember the students being shocked to learn that most of the folks at the base don’t carry firearms and all of the airmen that helped us were “sort of a bunch of computer geeks.”
Partnerships and experiences are keys to excellent schools today. The School District of University City continues to look for ways to support our students in this way, and we would encourage other schools to consider CyberPatriot Activities as another way to support real learning for kids.