Many months of quarantine have made most of us competent at—or at least resigned to—online substitutes for the activities we used to do in person. Just like school classes, work meetings, family gatherings, and doctor’s appointments, after-school STEM programs for kids and teens have made the transition to an online format. And while online STEM programs were not the norm before COVID-19, many organizations quickly pivoted last spring, successfully adapting their curricula to an online format or creating entirely new programs.
In summer camps and during the fall of 2020, kids learned to code, designed video games, built with LEGO pieces, explored digital animation, performed science experiments, and more, all from their own homes. These programs were highly structured: kids attended scheduled, real-time, instructor-led online activities, sometimes in small groups of students from around the country, sometimes with a small group of kids in their own home, or one-on-one.
I’ve contacted a number of STEM organizations to ask about their plans for 2021. Many are going to continue to offer online STEM classes with live instructors. Now that organizations have had some experience teaching online, I expect they will continue to adjust and update their curricula and teaching methods as they learn what works best for students.
If you’re ready to find a class, you can jump right to the list!
Online Instruction Can Work!
Understandably, many families were initially skeptical about online enrichment classes, but it’s been heartening to see how open-minded, motivated, and creative both educators and students have been during these challenging times.
The feedback I’ve heard from families and the organizations themselves has been positive. Parents have been supportive of the virtual class format, and many are asking for online classes to continue. An advantage of virtual learning is that it has also opened up opportunities for students who didn’t have access to STEM programs based on where they lived. Virtual learning has also allowed students to come together, collaborate, and create communities of students across the country and even from other countries. And providers are not limited to the teachers available in their geographic community, so they’re hiring the best teachers from around the country.
“Our child has been in the Code Wiz coding class on Thursdays. He really does love his coach and the group he is in the class with. As parents, we love that our child (who usually shies away from uncomfortable or new situations) can laugh and have the confidence to say when he doesn’t understand something in this class. He has grown so much in taking the classes at Code Wiz and we are so grateful for the opportunity for online learning!”—Parent, Massachusetts
What to Expect from Online Classes
In my conversations with program providers, common themes have emerged from their collective experiences with online classes. Here are some best practices to ensure a positive experience for students, parents, and instructors.
- Virtual class sizes are smaller than in-person sessions. This allows students to build relationships with their instructors and the other students.
- Online sessions are shorter than in-person classes. This helps to keep students interested and engaged. Classes focus on active learning. Students are given multiple ways to learn, including lectures, videos, Q&A, and hands-on project work.
- Time for personal interaction is built into the schedule. Allowing students to be kids and get to know each other helps spark their creativity.
- Online classes are supplemented with independent work. This allows students to practice their skills between classes. Some organizations offer one-on-one support outside of the live class to assist and guide students.
- Students’ cameras are required to be on. This helps instructors to know that students are actively involved and participating.
- Providers communicate with parents before a program starts. Here they review class expectations, discuss online etiquette, and explain technical requirements and what needs to be set up before the class begins.
- Make sure your computer setup will work properly for the program. If necessary, test your webcam, download software, or unpack any kits that arrived in the mail prior to the first day of class. This is critical so that all students can start learning as soon as the class begins.
- A parent’s or caregiver’s involvement is sometimes necessary for younger children. Especially at the start, kids sometimes need assistance to navigate the technology, especially if they’re managing two windows on one computer. Switching between screens and using a mouse can be difficult for younger students.
Considerations When Choosing an Online Class
Before choosing a program you may want to consider whether adding another online activity is a good idea for your child, given their other screen time. If they spend the day on distance learning, time away from the screen may be more important than a coding class. Or you may want to make sure there’s a social component to the class, if your child is missing that aspect of their after-school enrichment program. As you evaluate specific classes, consider their fit with the child’s interests and temperament, student to teacher ratio, amount of independent work, mix of lecture, hands-on activities, and other types of learning, space and technology requirements, to make sure they match your child’s unique needs and learning style.
Winter 2021 Offerings
Here is a curated mix of online STEM offerings for the winter, categorized by discipline. (Note: If an organization offers more than one subject, they are listed under “Multi-Specialty.”)
These are real-time classes led by live instructors. They include classes in coding, engineering, science, math, STEAM, and entrepreneurship in after-school, evening, weekend, holiday and school vacation formats. Each program is uniquely designed, so if there is a class that piques your interest—or, even more importantly, the interest of your child—visit the organization’s website or contact them directly to learn more about the curriculum, timing, age range, technology requirements (e.g., computer, microphone, speakers, internet), and cost.
Analytics Head Start (AHEAD) is a program dedicated to teaching data analytics to high school students. Teens are introduced to analytics concepts and techniques for analyzing large data sets in order to discover knowledge and actionable information in a data-driven world.
Black Girls CODE offers introductory courses and workshops in a variety of subjects like building a webpage, game development, coding basics, and more.
Code Ninjas has introduced virtual ways to engage children through programs such as at-home coding and virtual camps and clubs. These activities may be offered exclusively or in tandem with in-person activities. Contact your nearby location for availability and further information.
Code Wiz is passionate about inspiring the next generation and helping kids to unlock their inner genius, and loves watching them get excited about coding! Their safe and supervised online classes are structured to keep children ages 7–17 engaged, learning, and socializing, with a variety of options to choose from and a small staff-to-student ratio to ensure they receive maximum attention from the coding coach. Contact your nearby location for availability and more information.
Codeverse offers one-on-one virtual coding classes for kids ages 6–13. Classes are 50 minutes long, held once a week, and led by expert Guides who introduce students to the universal concepts of coding while teaching the skills needed to create their own unique mobile apps and games. In between virtual sessions, kids have access to their Codeverse account, allowing them to continue building on existing projects or complete Missions. The first virtual session is free.
Coding with Kids provides year-round academy classes, after-school enrichment programs, camps and private classes for ages 5–18. Virtual classes are conducted live, in small groups, and teach a variety of subjects, from game development in Scratch or Python to Minecraft Modding, Roblox, Java/C#, 3D Design and more!
Coditum, by SummerTech, offers group (3:1) and private (1:1) computer science classes in Python, Java, web design, web development, 3D modeling, animation, and now Dungeons and Dragons experiences designed for ages 9–17.
iCode offers instructor-led classes for students 8–16 in coding, problem-solving, strategy, and design through a variety of mediums and coding languages. Students develop skills using popular platforms such as Roblox, Minecraft, Digital Arts, YouTube, Python, and Java.
iD Tech has been offering high-quality online and in-person technology education for over 20 years, including virtual after-school programs, camps, and online private lessons. Ages 7–18 and all skill levels welcome.
KIDS 4 CODING bridges the gap between what kids (ages 7-16) learn in traditional academic classes and what they need to succeed in our rapidly evolving tech-based society. Courses capture kids’ imaginations by connecting to their interests and passions, with a solid foundation of practical STEM education.
KTBYTE Computer Science Academy offers small group classes online for students ages 8-18. All classes are taught live by experienced instructors and meet for 1 hour each week. In addition, every student receives the support of daily office hours and homework assignments with instant feedback. Consultation meeting and first class session are free.
These classes may include coding, engineering, robotics, science, STEAM, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
Acera’s fully remote after-school enrichment STEAM programs are open to all kids ages 5 and older. They offer experiments for curious scientists, skill-building for programmers and artists, and rich discussions for rising philosophers, all taught by specialist educators with passion and field-based expertise.
Boston STEM Lab is a virtual hands-on program for children (ages 3–9) and their parents or caregivers, led by neuroscientist Eugenia Rojas. Through play and experimentation, kids learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in a fun and intuitive way, using inexpensive materials from home or a convenience store.
Brooklyn Robot Foundry offers fun and creative online robot-making classes for children 2-13 years old. Students will learn engineering fundamentals as they build an awesome new robot each week in these small classes led by skilled teachers. Classes are offered all day long, in a variety of formats, in addition to camps, parties, and even classes for the whole family.
Build-It-Yourself offers 30 online projects taught by art and engineering students from top universities including Harvard, MIT, Cornell, and Stanford. Elementary and middle school students use art and technology creatively in a unique global laboratory, where they design and build toys, contraptions, websites, computer games, and robots.
Coding Butterfly is a technology school that concentrates on coding and robotics, welcoming children in grades 1-8 who have an appetite for technology. In small classes, teachers personalize the learning experience and work closely with students as they explore new concepts and create projects that demonstrate a holistic understanding of what they’ve learned.
CyberWarrior Academy offers cybersecurity classes for teens, helping them to discover essential cybersecurity knowledge and skills and begin to develop an interest and the skills for this diverse and growing field at a young age.
Dreams for Schools will be offering online classes for children in 1st to 8th grade that give them a chance to explore STEM and technology through hands-on engineering projects, website development, mobile app creation, and more! DFS programs inspire and educate students to be STEM and Computer Science literate with the hard and soft skills needed to become the critical thinkers, creative leaders, and technologists of tomorrow.
Empow Studios offers STEM after school classes, private tutoring, and summer camps for kids ages 7-15. In their award-winning STEM programs, kids have fun learning coding, robotics, film & animation, Minecraft, Roblox, engineering, and more.
Girls Take the Lead offers small group, instructor-led, live virtual classes in STEM and leadership topics for home, school, micro-school, and learning pods. GirlsTech virtual classes are interactive, with action-based learning and hands-on activities for girls 6–18.
GreenApple Campus offers small group, instructor-led, live virtual classes on STEM and innovation topics for home, school, micro-school, and learning pods. Virtual classes are interactive, with action-based learning and hands-on activities for kids 6–18; special activities like Science Fridays and Saturday CodeLab are also offered.
Juni Learning is an online Computer Science, Mathematics, & English academy that offers private, online courses to students from ages 8–18. The program was developed by computer scientists, former classroom educators, and Google alumni, and classes are available seven days a week to fit your family’s schedule.
MakerKids runs award-winning virtual camps, programs, and parties on coding, robotics, and Minecraft for kids ages 6-13. Their goal is to empower the next generation of makers by helping kids develop the skills and confidence to become innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs.
Miss CEO empowers young women with world-class leadership training, mentorship, and career exploration opportunities. Through offerings such as the Miss CEO Leadership Academy, ambassador program, and specialized workshops, high school students learn directly from respected female leaders, developing critical skills like effective communication, time management, networking, career exploration, goal setting, and risk-taking.
New England Sci-Tech offers Ham Radio Technician License courses for children, adults, and child-parent pairs to facilitate the successful completion of the FCC amateur radio license test. Ham Radio is an ideal STEM activity for children in 5th grade and up.
OPAK offers K–12 students virtual ocean science, art, and advocacy lessons. Topics vary by age group, and each lesson includes follow-up activities.
Snapology offers play-based STEAM enrichment using LEGO bricks and other popular toys and themes. Classes range from Minecraft Gaming to Escape Rooms to Pokemon and are appropriate for children ages 4-14.
TechGirlz is a nonprofit organization helping middle school girls embrace the power of technology through free workshops. Their tech workshops or “TechShopz” are hands-on technology workshops designed for girls, grades 5-8. Though generally in person, these workshops are currently being offered virtually.
The Innovation Institute (Ti2) offers small (up to 8 students), hands-on, STEM-lab classes led by post-doctoral research scientists and engineers in both live online and hybrid options. After seven years of STEM teaching in its labs, Ti2 students have the opportunity to experience its laboratories virtually and to create learning labs in their homes; open to homeschool, after school, and weekend students, classes include neuroscience, chemistry, genomics, and an integrative K–4 STEM program.
The Makery introduces kids to the creative process of designing and building their own real scale model in Tiny House! – Architecture and Design, an online workshop beginning in February. Register now.
The Story School offers live online and in-person educational adventures. They provide full and half-day online school breaks, online STEM and Essential Learning Skills homeschool, online after-school adventures, and weekly as well as weekend classes.
TYE Entrepreneurship Academy, teaching student leaders how to launch a startup, is open to any 9th–12th-grade student in the US. Applications for the 2021-2022 program year will open in April 2021.
The Knowledge Society (TKS) is the world’s leading youth accelerator, named by the World Economic Forum as a “School of the Future”. TKS is a 10-month program for students ages 13–17, that helps them make an impact on the world using emerging technologies/sciences, while training mindsets and real-world skills. Throughout the program, students create unique projects, build a global network, and work with real companies on their most pressing problems.
UMass Amherst Winter Pre-College is offering online programs for 9th – 12th graders in topics such as kinesiology, psychology lab research, and programming. The project-based programs feature synchronous instruction scheduled during after-school hours.
The Office of Pre-Collegiate Outreach Programs at WPI is launching a variety of virtual programs for grades 7-10 called BOOST. From Game Development with Python to Electronic Gadget Design with Arduinos, BOOST programs are a great way to continue your learning in your favorite area of STEM.
Aloha Mind Math teaches visual math using the abacus. This hands-on approach to learning helps children develop agility with numbers and improve concentration and focus. This self-paced program is taught in virtual classes with 5 to 7 students aged 4.5 to 10.
Mathnasium offers a program called [email protected]: Live, face-to-face, online math tutoring with the same instructors and material that is taught in their centers. Along with a team of instructors who teach math in a way that makes sense, Mathnasium provides a fun and engaging environment for kids of all levels to explore math and build confidence. Find a center offering online sessions near you by visiting the website and entering your zip code.
Russian School of Mathematics (RSM) has delivered an after-school math program for K–12 students for over two decades. With three levels per grade, from beginner to competition, and a continuous curriculum encompassing pre-K through trigonometry, RSM can serve each child according to the child’s knowledge and ability. All branches will be offering online classes.
sySTEMic flow’s Online Math Institute offers 10-week courses to 9th–12th-grade students. Their wide variety of subjects includes Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry, all packed with the information students need to pass their math class and prepare for the next.
The Math Club Lexington offers an engaging math curriculum for 3rd–8th-grade students. Their classes feature weekly instruction, small group interactive working sessions, self-paced activities, and the International Mathematics Olympiad. Their award-winning model builds a student’s competency and confidence in math and problem-solving.
BioBuilder Educational Foundation has the goal of making biotechnology accessible to middle school and high school learners with a dynamic science and engineering curriculum and experiential learning series that can accommodate virtual, in-person, and hybrid classroom models. Visit biobuilder.org to see the curriculum and to get involved with the online courses: Idea Accelerator and BioBuilders 6-7-8.
ExSciton aims to stimulate K-8th grade students’ minds scientifically through coursework, experiments, workshops, and interactive learning modules based on theory, hands-on experiments, and evaluation. Instructors train students for national science competitions like You Be the Chemist (YBTC), MIT Science Bowl, and Physics Olympiad along with AP classes for math, physics, chemistry, and biology.
The DNA Learning Center offers Virtual Lab Field Trips that can be presented as online lab demonstrations, or with kits for students to perform experiments at home or at school alongside lab instructors by Zoom or another preferred online platform. Additionally, summer camps will be offered throughout the school year as part of the new “Endless Summer” program, which will include both virtual camps and in-person camps, which will take place either after school hours or on weekends.
The United Nations Association of Greater Boston’s Spring Institute in Global Leadership is a 3-day virtual Model UN program for students in grades 7-10. During this spring break program, students learn about climate change, participate in public speaking and negotiation activities, meet guest speakers, and step into the role of diplomats during Model UN simulations.
Wicked Cool for Kids offers fun, educational hands-on STEAM enrichment programming for kids K–5th grade at home. They provide complete science kits at home and weekly interactive online after-school classes focusing on science, engineering, and coding.
Summer 2021 Programs: Apply Now!
DC Design offers Design the Future: Digital, a program that teaches high school students how to design and build products for individuals with disabilities. The program, created by DC Design and developed in collaboration with the Institute of Design at Stanford (the d.school), partners teams of high school students and their university design coach with an individual living with a physical disability. In the two-week remote summer program (June 14-25), students design and launch real apps that improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Apply now.
Girls Who Code’s Virtual Summer Immersion Program (SIP) is a free, 2-week program for current 9th–11th-grade students (rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors), to learn about computer science, gain exposure to tech jobs, and join a supportive sisterhood of thousands of students around the world. General applications due Friday, March 19.