The digital textbook company Discovery Education announced last week an array of free digital learning resources to help mitigate recent learning loss in subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), where K-12 educators have cited growing achievement gaps during virtual learning.
According to a news release, the company will allow free web access to its STEM Careers Coalition and Ignite My Future in School educational initiatives, which feature hundreds of interactive multimedia activities designed to sharpen K-12 students’ problem-solving skills and keep them interested in STEM-related topics.
Marla Wilson, executive director of Discovery’s STEM Careers Coalition, said the online content — offered at no cost to families and teachers for continued summer learning — will provide “equitable access” to digital materials to combat the learning loss prevalent among many low-income students during the pandemic.
“One thing we learned at the onset of COVID last year was [we had] an incredible opportunity to create one-page, easy-to-execute activities for students at home,” she said of the genesis of the summer learning initiative.
Wilson said part of the goal is to foster an early interest in STEM professions in high demand, such as information technology and computer science.
“There are careers that don’t even exist yet that we need to prepare students for,” she said. “Our initiative is [designed] to reach those students so we can start to get more students interested in STEM careers to bridge that divide or gap in the future workforce.”
Steven McEvilly, a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Anaheim Hills Elementary School, said he’s used Discovery Education’s content to teach students more about what it takes to become a professional in fields like engineering and space exploration.
“I find that these media platforms are extremely important, as they’re the basis for [learning about] a lot of the jobs that are going to be coming up. My philosophy in the classroom is to not only prepare them for what is currently available but what is to happen in the future,” he said. “Using this type of media and being able to go look at the community aspect of things is always very crucial.”
McEvilly believes these summer STEM resources will prove useful in keeping students engaged over the summer, allowing some to catch up on those subjects ahead of the upcoming school year.
“I couldn’t stop them from continuing working. They were just so engrossed,” he said. “As long as parents and students are willing to put in the effort, we should be able to see [continued learning is closing] learning gaps by the time they return the next school year.”
In order to reach as many students as possible, Wilson said, Discovery Education ensures that its content depicts a representative STEM workforce with women and non-white professionals.
“If a child does not see images that look like themselves, they may be a little disengaged or discouraged from actually pursuing a career in STEM because they do not feel that’s some place they belong,” she said.
The company will also grant free access to online content for families and educators focusing on financial literacy, student health and promoting emotional well-being as part of its summer offerings. The content is also available on the Discovery Education K-12 platform, used by 45 million students worldwide.
For more information on Discovery Education’s digital learning tools and summer content, visit www.discoveryeducation.com.