Teaching STEM to CPS Teens During Spring Break

During the Chicago Public School’s Spring Vacation, students from three different high schools came to Columbia College Chicago for a four day Music in STEM spring camp. From April 11th to April 14th thirty students spent their Spring break learning how to build musical instruments, integrating hands-on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines.

“Music didn’t originate from just thoughts, it came from mathematics and science,” Amaya Davis said. “My favorite part of this week was the engineering part, the building the instruments.”

Established and funded by Chicago Public Schools and AfterSchool Matters, and developed by Columbia College Chicago, the Music in STEM program is a collaborative effort designed to give a meaningful learning experience to urban youth. Teens had the experience to work alongside Associate Professor Marcelo Caplan, Coordinator of Community Engagement Programs, Evelyn Oropeza, Dave Morton, Director of Visualization lab and Columbia College Chicago students from various majors.

Students were challenged on the first day to learn how to build a one string guitar known as a monochord using a diatonic Pythagorean scale. Students learned how to use mathematics to measure the frequency of the string and used tools to build their musical instruments. Once they finished their monochord they learned about ideophones and  the chromatic scale to build a well-tuned xylophone.

“This program made me feel passionate about building. The work really made me think something, like Tyeshawn is something now, because he built a xylophone. He built a guitar, that I never thought I would never build before. And I wanted to be science teacher and thanks to the educator back there, she gave me some tips about how to be a teacher,” said Tyeshawn Cohens. “She gave me some ideas about stuff that I need to learning about, like how to get a job, how to better myself in the real world.”

For the closing, many students were pleased and inspired by the mentors from the Music in STEM camp program. They saw ways they could carry what they learned to other future areas of study.

“In my future I can apply what I learned with mathematics when I go to college. I have to know the formula that we used this week. I want to be a veterinarian, so hopefully these math skills can help me,” Kayla Ewing. “I would do the camp again and recommend it to others.”

Columbia College Chicago is a private, non-profit urban institution offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative arts, media, liberal arts and business for 8,000 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens. For more information, visit www.colum.edu.