Rising Columbia area middle school students learn every summer at USC’s Science & Technology Enrichment Program (STEP)
Hosted by the University of South Carolina College of Education, the USC Center for Science Education (College of Arts & Sciences) and Lexington School District Two, STEP offers students a hands-on, inquiry-based investigation of the world.
In inquiry-based learning, educators act as facilitators of the learning process. They pose questions or problem scenarios to students, rather than presenting facts to memorize. STEP offers students an environment in which they can explore and investigate, mirroring the scientific method of discovery and problem solving.
Through STEP, rising sixth graders participate in the Energy + Force & Motion workshops, making coolers to determine if they can keep food warm, and building electric circuits and motors.
Rising seventh and eighth graders take the Chemistry & Earth Structures workshops, performing chemical reactions, and building models to differentiate types of reactions. Rising eighth graders also map global earthquake occurrences and build models to understand the forces behind earthquakes and volcanoes.
STEP, a component of USC’s Step Into Science Teaching program, is in its twelfth year. In addition to providing inquiry-based curriculum to students, it is a professional development program for middle school science teachers, offering high-quality, inquiry-based curriculum, deep content instruction, peer teaching and reflection in a collaborative learning environment. STEP is offered through a Math and Science Partnership Grant from the South Carolina Department of Education.