JBLM Program Combines Sci-Fi & Reality For Fifth Graders


By Leslie Merchant

Big dreams come easy to very young children.  Visions of being an astronaut, veterinarian or even President of the United States all seem so glamorous and attainable.  Reality sets in for many underprivileged students around fifth grade.  Interest in school may drop off, particularly in science and math.  A new program called Evergreen STARBASE hopes to dial up interest and enthusiasm for children before it’s too late.

From Classes to Careers

Located at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) in Dupont, Washington, Evergreen STARBASE is a Department of Defense funded program that was designed to target at-risk fifth graders and provide a new appreciation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

The goal of the program is to show students the connection between their everyday classes and their potential careers.  The hope is to inspire them to choose to take STEM classes in middle and high school which will give students the science and technology background embedded in almost every  career, particularly in the military.

Planting the Seed

“STARBASE plants the seed for these kids who otherwise might glaze over at the thought of taking science and advanced math courses,” explains Lisa Dowling, Program Director.  Classes are held at JBLM and students get to interact with their presenters.

Dowling says, “the presenters show (the students) how they use their robotics and technology in everyday life.  It’s eye-opening to the kids because these are real men and women using STEM in their real jobs.”

Divide and Conquer

The course is divided up into 5 sessions with approximately 35 students participating at a time.  Classes are held once a week, usually five Mondays or Tuesdays in a row.  A special summer academy is offered to students of a broader age group.

Active Involvement

Hands-on activities and high-quality demonstrations are much more appealing for any student, but particularly so for kids whose enthusiasm for school may be fading.

Traveling to JBLM and spending time with military units gives the program an adventurous vibe and adds to the excitement.  The program has two great teachers and the students are so busy and engaged, they don’t even realize they are on an educational field trip.  “Parents say how their kids actually talk about school now!” Dowling proudly exclaims.

Hooking Them Early

With 27 years in the Air National Guard and 17 years in education, Lisa knows first-hand the importance of catching students early and giving them every science and technology advantage possible.  Children who miss building that STEM foundation early on may never get a chance to catch up with their techno-savvier peers when it comes to job growth and opportunities.

Meeting Standards

The STARBASE curriculum is aligned with State andNational standards in mind and is designed to support fifth grade testing in the sciences.  The program has been in existence nationally for 20 years and was launched at JBLM in July 2012.

The program is intended specifically for Title 1 and low socio-economic schools, but other schools may be serviced as well. Participating schools need only fund their own transportation, and the Department of Defense supports the remainder of the program expenses.

Open houses are offered to give information about classes and volunteer opportunities.  For information about the program and/or availability, please send a request to info@evergreenstarbase.org.

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