Program distributed six thousand kits in just under six months

iBIO’s highly successful STEM Kit program, launched in late January to fill the educational gap created by distance learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to provide activity kits to families during the summer months. In July, iBIO distributed its six thousandth activity kit.

Designed to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning experiences for students in grades three through eight, families with children as young as kindergarteners have told iBIO that they also have enjoyed the hands-on learning activities.

Each kit includes all materials needed for a specific activity, printed instructions in English and Spanish, STEM Hero profiles, and a link to an instructional video. The kits help kids explore a wide variety of STEM areas through engineering activities. Topics include polymer science, chromatography, bioinformatics, solubility, electrical and mechanical engineering, plant science, solar cooking, wound healing and more.

The program kicked off in January with kits used in Community Consolidated school District 62 in Des Plaines. The launch was made possible in large part through the sponsorship of global healthcare company Abbott, which has a presence in Des Plaines with its leading molecular diagnostics business focused on the analysis of DNA, RNA and proteins at the molecular level. Abbott provided $50,000 in funding to develop and deliver the STEM kits for the Des Plaines school district students.

“We are happy to have partnered with iBIO to support School District 62,” said Daman Kowalski, vice president and head of Molecular Diagnostics, Abbott. “A strong STEM foundation opens many career opportunities, and we’re happy that Abbott STEM experts were able to contribute to the STEM Kits by sharing their own career experiences in areas like scientific affairs, design quality, quality material control, commercial, marketing and instrument product support.”

The kits are appropriate for use at schools, after-school programs, community youth-group programs, and by families in their homes.

“My 6th and 8th graders were really engaged in learning and using the STEM Kits! It really helped them to see what was possible,” said Amanda Morris, the parent of Algonquin Middle School students. “The STEM Kits made them want to join the STEM Club at their school on Zoom. Thank you so much for helping them to gain a love for STEM.”

An opportunity to tackle disparities in STEM education

A recent Chicago Tribune front-page story highlighted the pandemic’s impact on worsening equity disparities in education, particularly in STEM. iBIO developed the STEM Kit program to support high-need, low-income students. In recent months, corporations, foundations, and other sources of philanthropic funding have enabled the expansion of the iBIO program to students and families throughout the state, representing a wider range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

“For many students, the 2020-21 school calendar was a lost year for hands-on learning. Our STEM Kits are helping to clear some of the hurdles imposed by distance learning,” said iBIO Senior Vice President Ann Vogel. “Several school districts used COVID-relief funds to enhance STEM educational opportunities by purchasing the iBIO Stem Kits.  We encourage any school district that is interested in our program to contact us.”

Private purchases available

Also continuing during the summer and into the fall is the opportunity for individuals to purchase STEM kits or sponsor kits for others. Fees for private family subscriptions will cover production and shipping costs and will help reduce program costs for families in financial need.

School districts, community programs, donors, sponsors, and individuals can click here for more information about the iBIO Stem Kit program.