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Out-of-Class STEM Experiences Bring Student Learning to Life

Engaging, hands-on experiences available to every elementary and middle school in the district

What animals should live in the harbor, and how does the water quality affect which animals do live in the harbor? This spring, more than 500 City Schools’ sixth graders will go to the National Aquarium to figure it out.

After testing the water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen content, and turbidity, sixth grade students make hypotheses about what species they think live in the harbor. Next comes the moment of truth. Biohuts (mini artificial reefs) are pulled from the water and students survey the residents and see which animals are really living there.

This hands-on activity is just one of many Out-of-Class STEM Experiences available to every elementary and middle school in the district. Created in partnership with BmoreStem and local, science-based institutions such as the Maryland Science Center, Great Kids Farm, the National Aquarium, and the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the diverse programs are curriculum-embedded, connecting what students learn in the classroom with what is happening around them in the real world. BmoreStem is a group of local organizations and City Schools that works to deliver and enhance STEM related learning opportunities in Baltimore.

“We want our students to do science and engineering,” said Joshua Gabrielse, Science Director at Baltimore City Public Schools. “Seeing the joy when students make discoveries, like finding the crabs that do live in the harbor, demonstrates how important it is for students to have experiences connected to the curriculum.”

Over the last three years, more than 5,000 students have had an Out-of-Class STEM Experience, with many more on the way.
These learning opportunities cover a wide range of topics. At Great Kids Farm, kindergarten to fifth-grade students can learn about what plants need to thrive. By exploring greenhouses and farmland and planting with their own hands, students learn about photosynthesis and the essentials for plant growth like sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and chlorophyll. Educators from the Carnegie Institute for Science bring zebrafish to schools and students get to raise and observe their embryos, which hatch and have heartbeats in only three days. And at the Maryland Science Center, students put the power of force, motion, and inertia to the test in the hands-on Newton’s Alley exhibit. 

This interactive approach is based on a basic philosophy: high quality learning, intended to prepare students to thrive in work and life, must expose students to real-world experiences. Connecting things students hear and read in class to things they do, see, and feel in the real world can transform understanding, ignite curiosity, and accelerate student growth. 

To learn more about these experiences, visit

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