WINCHESTER, Va. — Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Carlos Hopkins visited students taking part in activities at the Winchester STARBASE Academy May 20, 2019, at the Virginia National Guard’s Cherry-Beasley Readiness Center in Winchester, Virginia, to talk with students and see the program’s hands-on instructional approach for science, technology, math and engineering in person.
“It was incredible to see the high level of enthusiasm and engagement with the students when I visited STARBASE,” Secretary Hopkins said. “I was very impressed with the overall program, and the quality of instruction, but particularly the professionalism of the STARBASE staff and how they visibly demonstrated their love of teaching. It’s easy to see why students are so excited about STEM education after a fun-filled week attending this program.”
STARBASE is a Department of Defense educational program, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, where students participate in 25 hours of “hands-on, mind-on” activities in science, technology, engineering and math over five days.
Students are exposed to the technological environments and positive civilian and military role models and are immersed in a unique classroom experience for five days where all activities are student-centered, hands-on, encourage higher order thinking and incorporate STEM applications in the real world, explained Dr. Susan Corrigan, the Winchester STARBASE Academy director. The program supports 15 area schools from four public school districts, and nearly 1,300 students in 58 classes participated in the 5-day program in 2018, with 77 percent of the students coming from Title I schools.
Corrigan said that STARBASE also continues to expand beyond the 5-day program through a variety of outreach programs. In 2018, STARBASE instructors taught lessons at the Virginia National Guard Youth Camp, ChalleNGe program, Clarke County STEM camp, STEM nights at three area schools, and held four weeks of summer camp. They also continued to develop and implement the after-school mentoring program STARBASE 2.0 at Daniel Morgan Middle School.
During the fall of 2018, a group of ten students identified as the robotics team were trained in order to compete at the First Lego League competition in November 2018. Instructors met twice weekly with the robotics team in order to prepare them for competition., and the school district provided a teacher liaison, snacks for the students and paid for the transportation costs to the competition site. During the spring of 2019, STARBASE 2.0 was opened for up to 40 students using Lego EV3 robotics.
The STARBASE instructional team also reviewed amended and new curriculum posted to national website, adopting and implementing lessons that will enhance student experiences, Corrigan said. A transition in adopting the new lessons and phasing out the retired lessons took place during the fiscal year 19 school year. STARBASE has also Increased technology use by using iPads, instead of paper and pencil for recording of experimental data, and this also decreased the amount of money spent on printing costs..
STARBASE National Overview
The DoD STARBASE Program first originated in Detroit, Michigan, as Project STARS in 1991. The curriculum focused on exposing at-risk youth in grades 4 to 6 to innovative hands-on activities in science, technology and mathematics based on the physics of flight. Students were invited to Selfridge Air National Guard Base to participate and witness the application of scientific concepts in a “real world” setting, and National Guard personnel demonstrated the use of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology in their fields of expertise and served as role models to the attending students.
In 1993, the U.S. Congress appropriated funds for DoD STARBASE and piloted the program in seven states., and now there are locations spread across the United States and its territories. To accommodate the growing demand for additional STEM programs, a structured after school mentoring program, STARBASE 2.0, for middle school students was piloted in 2010 at five locations. The program’s success relies on collaboration between the sponsoring military unit and STARBASE Academy, the school district, and local communities. The goal is for each STARBASE Academy to sponsor a 2.0 program.
DoD STARBASE programs are located at 66 military installations including 10 active duty Air Force locations, four Air Force Reserve locations, one U.S. Army location, one Marine Corps locations and 50 National Guard.
In the 2018 fiscal year, STARBASE programs conducted nearly 3,000 classes serving almost 1,400 schools, in nearly 400 school districts across the country. The programs served more than 93,00 students with the 5-day program, and more than 16,000 students with supplemental programs.