UC San Diego Extension is working together with the city to bring free STEAM workshops, along with college prep and training for in-demand fields, to neighborhood libraries.
In January, they launched a pilot program called Library NExT, which stands for Network of Education x Training, at five local branches. The courses, offered through nonprofit Sally Ride Science at UCSD, are geared toward middle and high school students. Plans are in the works to expand the program to more libraries by the end of 2017 and eventually take it citywide.
“With the pace of innovation accelerating, we need to equip students with the knowledge and specialized skills that our employers demand. Education and workforce training like this program are critical to creating an inclusive economy,” said Mary Walshok, UCSD’s associate vice chancellor of Public Programs and the dean of Extension.
As of June 30, 154 students had enrolled in courses including “Messy Science – Atmosphere,” which uses physics, chemistry, and biology to explain volcanoes, glaciers, and other wonders of earth science; “Virtual Reality with Google Cardboard,” which allows students to explore the process of
creating simulated experiences; and “Make Your Own Inflatables,” in which students learn about engineering and architecture through experiments with bubbles.
Upcoming Library NExT courses cover subjects like architecture for the tiny house movement, squid dissection, how music affects the body and brain, and the physics of fidget spinners. Pre-college-prep and college counseling will also be offered.
City officials say the classes offered via the Library NExT program are part of an effort to prepare middle and high school students for college and the workforce. In 2015, less than 15 percent of high schools offered Advanced Placement computer science courses, and in those that did, only 22 percent of students who took the AP exam were girls and only 13 percent were black or Latino.
“Every child in San Diego deserves a chance to go to college and get a good-paying job, but sometimes the price tag puts courses that would give their college applications a boost—like a robotics class or test prep—out of reach,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “This program gives students across our city the opportunity to learn valuable skills that can propel them into rewarding careers.”