STEM Scholars

Picking up on a national movement to shore up children’s skills in science and math, the Big Shoulders Fund has launched a new scholarship with a focus in those areas.

The scholarship is to encourage more children to engage in “STEM” areas – science, technology, engineering,and math – because the nation’s ability to compete globally will depend on a more highly skilled workforce with a better grasp of those subjects.

The Big Shoulders Fund STEM Scholars Program was founded by longtime Big Shoulders’ supporters Dave and Wendy Dury. The couple comes to some of the weekend workshops and enjoys interacting with the scholars. Twenty-three fifth grade students were selected for the $1,800 annual scholarship in 2010-11, and the award will follow them through their 8th-grade year. A second group of 25 fifth graders began during the 2011-12 school year. Students are chosen based on their interest in the subject areas and their financial need. As part of the program, the students participate in a series of Saturday morning enrichment classes twice a month focused on science and math concepts. Students visit local museums such as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium, and conduct lab-based experiments and simulations.

With guidance from the Durys, the program is administered by Wayne Wittenberg, a Glen Ellyn elementary school science teacher who has led science workshops for Big Shoulders Fund teachers for years. Wittenberg helped select the students from at least 10 Big Shoulders Fund schools. “Our ultimate goal is to get more students into science and math fields because that’s an area American students are just not pursuing as much,” Wittenberg said. “This is very exciting. I’m just in awe of the good teachers we’ve got working with us, and how excited they and the students are to come in on a Saturday and work on science and math.”

The STEM Scholars are an active group of young people. You can follow what they are learning on their student managed website