Bay Area teachers got a taste of the big leagues on Tuesday at the San Francisco 49ers third annual science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) open house.Hosted at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, more than 300 Bay Area educators were invited to the event, which provided guests a “behind-the-scenes” look into the 49ers educational resources STEM programs, as well as how to sign up for free field trip and transportation opportunities.
“This wonderful stadium and museum gets students excited about STEM,” said State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, who spoke at the Tuesday’ event. “It fosters teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, working together, and the whole new curriculum emphasis on the scientific method and critical thinking.”
During the school year, the program brings thousands of students to the stadium for educational field trips, and it takes an unconventional learning approach by teaching kids through something many of them are already familiar with: football.
Students may learn physics by studying how lift and drag allow a football to be thrown, or how geometry comes into play when a kicker plants their foot.
They are taught averages by comparing times in a 40-meter dash, or they may have an art lesson through the lens of sports photography.
On Tuesday evening, teachers were taken around Levi’s Stadium to see the 49ers museum and experience these lessons hands-on.
They took part in interactive learning activities like those available in the Denise Debartolo York Education Center, where students play learning games focusing on subjects like sustainability and problem solving while getting exposure to high-tech tablets and computerized desks.
Educators were even taken down to the field for a crash course in the Movement Lab, a part of the program that gets kids on their feet while they learn.
Torlakson, who oversees approximately 6.3 students in the state, stressed in his opening remarks the need to increase representation of girls and students from low-income communities in STEM fields and careers.
“Right now only 15 percent of those with engineering degrees are women, and only 40 percent of those working in life sciences are women,” he said. “This kind of exemplary program is one that will make a huge difference.”
As part of a $4 million investment in STEM education shared by the 49ers and Chevron, the program hosted more than 20,000 Bay Area K-8 students on free field trips to the stadium throughout its first year alone.
In only three years, that number has gradually increased to 60,000 students, and 49ers CEO Jed York said he hopes the program continues to grow and improve with educator feedback.
Judging by the amount of hands raised when asked who plans to return with their students during the school year, it seems York and the rest of the team will have a lot to cheer about this fall.