Envisioning a STEM future

Because STEM is the path to future success!

… Or so we think, since almost all career fields today require a solid foundation of STEM.

So, we  were  excited and grateful when Grasshopper’s 4th grade teacher nominated him for the National Youth Leadership Forum: Pathways to STEM. It seemed a great opportunity for an early exposure to STEM fields.

NYLF Pathways to STEM is a six days program for 3rd – 5th grade students from around the U.S. to get real hands-on STEM experience through simulations and workshops and develop leadership skills. As stated on their website…

“a unique learning experience for bright, forward-thinking elementary school students who will evolve into next generation innovators, engineers, doctors, software developers, and scientists”

The kids work in teams, with iPads and hands-on equipment, on three engaging STEM competitive challenges in the fields of engineering, medicine and CSI. Then the competitions culminate with the kids using their public speaking skills to present their projects to their parents on the last day, demonstrating what they learned and how these new abilities will shape their future.

After learning what the program was about, the second first thing we learned though was that this is a CONSIDERABLE financial investment.

But financials were sorted out to include this new investment in our budget and the first week of august Grasshopper happily joined another 200 plus kids in the forum at the Babson College in Boston, MA looking all preppy with his white collared shirt and khaki shorts and carrying his pre-program assignment “Explorers: Career Discovery”.

Just watching him walk into the Babson College building was an inspiring vision of what we hope his future will be. And Dragonfly’s eyes may have gotten teary and all.





Throughout the program we received email updates keeping us informed on all the activities Grasshopper is enjoying.


On his first day Grasshopper attended his first STEM Group Meeting, where he set goals for the week, explored teamwork, and helped create a code of conduct and choose a group name. This STEM Group would then his core group for the week. Being part of this team setting allowed the kids to network for each other, exposed them to new perspectives, and allowed take on different leadership roles.
After his meeting with the STEM group, Grasshopper took part in hands-on activities that introduced him to the three STEM fields that he will be focusing on this week: Medicine, Engineering, and Forensic Science.

Later, he participated in his first STEM challenge, building and racing bristle bots!



After meeting with his STEM Group to explore both verbal and nonverbal communication and the differences between effective and ineffective communication, Grasshopper and his peers began their CSI lesson and their investigation into The Case of the Missing Masterpiece. The focus on day two was on the blood drops left at the scene of the crime. They were able to recreate and then examine the blood splatter patterns and collect enough data to eliminate suspects from the case.

In Medicine Grasshopper learned about the functions of the cardiovascular system with the aid of interactive content and curriculum provided by Discovery Education. He used different-sized straws and balloons to model the relationship between blood pressure, blood vessel size, and blood vessel elasticity.

In Engineering the kids were challenged with four missions that helped them learn how to program a Sphero Robot. They also learned about the Truss Bridges‘ architecture, which he used in his second STEM Challenge to build a tower made of spaghetti noodles and gumdrops.


Grasshopper’s STEM group discussed tips to improve their presentation skills.

In CSI they analyzed the fingerprint evidence collected at the crime scene, and then researched and compared his own fingerprints to others in his STEM group.

In Medicine, they labeled a diagram of the heart to correctly identify each component and its function.

Grasshopper  dissected a real beef heart!

In Engineering, they built a special chariot which they attached to the robot they coded to compete in an exciting Sphero Chariot Race tomorrow!


Grasshopper’s STEM Group came up with a cheer to perform at the Team Rally and learned how to recognize each other’s leadership potential using Leadership Links.

In CSI they analyzed tool marks and gathered clues from witness statements before putting all the clues together to finally solve The Case of the Missing Masterpiece.

In Medicine they studied diseases of the heart, created their own public health campaign and Grasshopper played role of a physician and diagnosed patients!

Afterwards, all teams competed to determine which Chariot structure held up to the challenge. Grasshopper piloted his team’s chariot and his team won the competition! They were crowned Sphero Chariot champions!


On day 5 they had a final meeting to reflect on their time at NYLF Pathways to STEM and what goals he will set for the future. Then they learned more about opportunities in STEM careers and worked hard to complete their presentation for the student exhibition.


On their last day parents were invited to see the STEM teams presentations. They did a great job and we were the proud parents of the Master of Ceremony!













At the end his teacher made this video about the experience.

You can see more pictures in the NYLF Pathways to STEM Facebook album.

The experience was overall very positive. Envision representatives were personable and helpful and Grasshopper did learn a lot and had a blast. Envision states that ”NYLF Pathways to STEM brings STEM to life – in a way no textbook can.” and we think it is a true statement because we don’t know of any other programs offering these opportunities.


We are looking forward to enrolling Butterfly in 2017 if she gets nominated.

Hope you find ways to envision your future too! Thank you for visiting!










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