STEM program providing Baltimore middle schoolers with life skills

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - Even when school is out, Harry Preston V's light is always on. 

"All you've got to do is show up and try. That's the only thing we're asking," he said. 

Preston is in charge of science, technology, engineering, and math at James McHenry Elementary/Middle right outside of downtown Baltimore. 

The light is on for the kids, and it's leading them. 

"It gives the students an opportunity, who generally wouldn't get that opportunity, to meddle -- I would say to tinker -- with engineering concepts. We go over biology, science, technology, computer science, some chemistry, some application of all the different sciences together," Preston said. 

Then they apply those subjects to elaborate, sophisticated creations that would take most people days. 

The 7th and 8th graders in the program are churning them out in hours. 

Any and every material is repurposed. 

Bottles, caps, rubber bands, and boxes transformed into battery-powered speedboats, 'mouse-trap' style roller coasters, and even robots. 

"...robots are just part of it, but the opportunity to experience all the different sciences without having a lot of pressure," Preston said. 

With combined efforts, the University of Maryland's Social Work Community Outreach Service and the Baltimore school created the Next Generation Scholars program. 

"We live in a very diverse city and I think that making sure that kids from certain communities: particularly black and brown students are learning about different things that don't always include them," Julia Scott, the program manager at James McHenry STEM Program, said. 

It's an inclusive approach to teaching students more than math and problem-solving. 

"...but also look at their life goals because if you're able to stick to it with like building a tower, hopefully, you can stick it with other things in your life," Scott said. 

Lessons those at James McHenry say can change a narrative and impact future generations. 

"I got into this specifically because there's not a lot of people who look like me. There's not a lot of people in the fields that I was in, in fact, it was less than 3% when I was in school. So for me to able to get more involved, you can change entire families' lives," Preston said. 

 

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