STEM from Dance’s Girls Rise Up is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: Middle- and high-school Black and Latinx girls ages 12–18 from schools in low-income communities in Brooklyn
Number of participants: 216
Location: In school during the school year: the Highbridge Green School, Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School, New Heights Middle School, Children’s Aid P.S. 219, Opus Dance Theater. Summer camp at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School.
Frequency/Duration: Varies according to school needs, from one 2-hour session per week up to 5 hour-long sessions per week; for the semester or full school year; 3-week daily summer camp.
Eligibility Criteria: Camp requirements: New York City girls ages 12—18; must arrange their own transportation to and from camp, and attend the full 3 weeks, Monday– Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.. No previous coding or dance experience necessary
Curriculum: Curriculum combines choreography principles with software and electrical engineering principles as students create a dance routine that combines the 2 realms. Participants use computational thinking to create a dance piece that incorporates technology. This can include wearable tech, such as costume accessories that light up and have sensors that are input to a circuit, for example. Participants might also design projections to add intrigue to a dance performance. While learning block-based coding, circuitry, and how to create dance in a way that is responsive to tech, girls also learn to be part of a team. Programs culminate with a performance.
Outcomes: 40 percent of participants increased their confidence; 50 percent had a more positive attitude towards STEM; 80 percent increased their STEM proficiency. Students are guided toward other STEM programs and internships with partner organizations such as dance companies (including Brooklyn Ballet).
Partnerships: Schools: the Highbridge Green School, Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School, New Heights Middle School, Children’s Aid P.S. 219, Opus Dance Theater. Nonprofits: Code Nation. Companies: dance companies such as Brooklyn Ballet.
Cost: Free for students in school programs; camp is $425 (total for 3 weeks, including lunch) with scholarships available.
Sources of funding: Mixed: funded through Department of Cultural Affairs and subcontracted through the Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD). Also receives funding from foundations and individual giving.
What makes the program stand out? Students of nontraditional backgrounds rarely see themselves reflected in STEM fields, and subsequently don’t imagine themselves pursuing STEM careers. STEM From Dance takes a unique approach to correcting this misperception: introducing girls of color to coding and circuitry through a nontraditional lens that resonates with them. Moreover, the programs teach girls to be leaders and computational thinkers by allowing them the freedom to create and perform their own tech-enhanced choreography.
What do participants need to succeed? A shift in perception around tech and STEM and where they might fit into that world. For most participants, this program is their first experience with computer programming/circuitry; once they’re introduced to the curriculum they tend to respond well.
What does the organization need? Identifying partner schools is a challenge and having greater staff capacity could help. Finding staff that fit the role, are well-qualified, and that students can relate to.