Social engineering

Mystic Aquarium providing STEM experience to Pell Elementary School

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NEWPORT — A special education teacher at Pell Elementary School is working with the Mystic Aquarium to bring STEM (science, technology, engineering and math, education) subjects to her classroom. 

The STEM Accelerator Program was created during the COVID pandemic in response to the learning loss that happened during that time. The aquarium has always had learning programs for students, but prior to the pandemic it was a mentorship program. 

“We’ve been doing that model for years now and we normally do this through grant money. But in response to dollars that was flowing to address learning loss, we came up with the STEM Accelerator based off of that model,” said Ayana Melvan, senior director of strategic partnerships at Mystic Aquarium. 

Pell Elementary School special educator Carla Jewell works with her student, Aiden Duncan, 9, on Oct. 12, to identify scientific photos, as part of Mystic Aquarium's STEM Accelerator Program.

Anyone can teach the program, Melvan said, not necessarily a formal teacher. The program is geared around the after-school model that’s focused on social-emotional and hands-on learning because, during the pandemic, students were not able to be around their peers and positive adults outside of their families due to social distancing. 

“There’s two parts to our curriculum,” Melvan said. “One part is largely about social-emotional learning, so there’s a team-building aspect, building up team skills so you know how to problem solve with multiple people. There’s also an independent component where you learn to work … all on your own.”

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