Mission STEM-possible: COA’s new STEM Program Creates Surprising Crop of Science Lovers

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Mission STEM-possible: COA’s new STEM Program Creates Surprising Crop of Science Lovers2018-05-17T14:46:22-05:00

Project Description

When COA’s STEM Program Coordinator Lina Nguyen first introduced STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) lessons to preteens and teens in COA’s youth development program they were not very excited. “A lot of kids didn’t really know what it was,” recalls Lina. “Younger kids didn’t take it too seriously. Older kids were turned off as soon as they heard ‘math and science.’” The first time Lina delivered a STEM lesson to seventh and eighth graders at COA’s Community Learning Center (CLC) within O.W. Holmes School, there was a lot of resistance. Lina introduced herself and COA’s brand new Explore Your Future STEM program to the youth, they did not think that science or math could be fun. One student was particularly opposed to STEM; he even stormed out of the classroom. Lina went on with the lesson; engaging the kids in a fun engineering activity that involved balloons. Soon, the class was totally enthralled. Suddenly, the previously disinterested student returned to the room, began participating in the activity and ended up liking it. Now, he is one of Lina’s top students.

Prior to the program, 44% of youth had no previous experience with STEM.

Success stories like these are common in COA’s new Kohl’s Explore Your Future STEM Program. Hundreds of kids who earlier claimed to hate science and math have fallen in love with STEM. “All of the students now look forward to STEM lessons,” Lina says. Thanks to support from Kohl’s, in 2017 COA started a new STEM program for its youth development participants. The program provides quality science and technology learning experiences to preteens and teens at COA’s Goldin Center, Auer Avenue School, and COA’s Riverwest Center. Prior to the program, 44% of youth had no previous experience with STEM. The hands on program includes classroom workshops, events, and field trips. Kohl’s Explore Your Future STEM Program has allowed kids to take part in innovative activities, like a STEM Exploration Event held at COA’s Goldin Center in November and educational field trips to places like the Discovery World Science and Technology Museum. In the classroom, youth get to use new technology like Ozobots and LEGO Mindstorms to learn about coding and build robots. These fun resources have gotten COA youth excited about STEM and have created a strong foundation for their STEM interests to continue to grow.

COA Kids take part in STEM activities during last year’s National STEM Day Event

Although STEM Program Coordinator, Lina Nguyen, has always loved science, she credits a former high school teacher as one of the main people who inspired her to seriously pursue STEM. Lina took her love for STEM to UW – Madison and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Neurobiology. Soon after, she moved to Minneapolis and taught middle school science for two years through the Teach for America (TFA) program. After her TFA stint ended, Lina was still eager to work with young people and teach science. She returned to Milwaukee and joined COA in August 2017 and has managed the Explore Your Future STEM program ever since.

Lina’s favorite part of the job? Seeing kids experience the joy of learning. She loves to see kids’ faces light up during the “a-ha!” moments when they learn about concepts like meteorology or static. Lina tries to make STEM practical and relatable to kids’ everyday lives. “STEM gives kids translatable skill sets,” she explains. “It’s very useful for the workforce and gives them valuable technology skills.”


 We’re hosting a STEM fair on Friday, May 18th! Learn more.

Project Details


COA Mission

COA Youth & Family Centers helps Milwaukee children, teens, and families reach their greatest potential through a continuum of educational, recreational, and social work programs offered through its urban community centers and rural camp facility. As a multicultural agency, COA values diversity and cooperation, and promotes growth and positive social interaction.

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