The Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program (ChiS&E) is growing! Now in its 7th year, the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program serving students in grades K-6th began in 2009 with 60 1st grade students and has added a grade level ever since. Fourth grade was added in 2012, and in 2014 ChiS&E began serving fifth and sixth grade students with the introduction of three-dimensional geometry (5th grade) and probability (6th grade). ChiS&E also successfully branded itself with the slogan “Developing Tomorrow’s Engineers.”
Over 300 students from more than 25 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and charter schools in grades K-6 participate in ChiS&E’s free Saturday programs. The programs offer highly engaging, hands-on activities with their parents by their sides (a program requirement except for grade 4). ChiS&E students are from schools on the city’s south and west sides. Fifty percent are Latino, mainly from Eli Whitney Elementary School, whose principal Jorge Ruiz is a champion of ChiS&E. Fifty percent are African American and over half are girls. Other schools with a good number of participants include Dvorak, Miles Davis, Spencer, Pershing, Wells Prep, and McDade. In 2014 ChiS&E received its first grant from CPS for its activities in neighborhood schools.
ChiS&E focuses on the Little Civil Engineer (K), the Little Chemical Engineer (1), the Little Electrical Engineer (2), the Little Mechanical Engineer (3), the Little Structural Engineer (4), Geometry (polyhedrons) (5), and Probability (6). The latter two grades include algebraic concepts to prepare students to participate in the district’s Algebra Initiative and be on track to complete calculus in high school. A three-year grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation supports the inclusion of pre-algebra activities in ChiS&E’s K-3 program. Fifteen CPS teachers instruct and assist in these programs, building their capacity to provide accelerated math and science learning for students in their classrooms.