Since partnering with PLTW in 2014, Verizon has provided access to high-quality computer science curricula to more than 48,000 students in more than 325 middle schools across 36 states. This year, the partnership expanded further, providing access to fun, hands-on computer science exploration outside the classroom with Verizon Innovative Learning labs.
Verizon Innovative Learning labs are free, interactive opportunities for students 8-12 years old, hosted in Verizon stores across the country. Each 50-minute lab is instructed by a PLTW teacher who introduces students to new technology in virtual reality, coding, Internet of Things, robotics, app development, and 3-D design and printing.
Kelly Garcia is a PLTW Gateway teacher at Benton Middle School in La Mirada, California, and a lab instructor. She recently instructed the hologram lab at the Verizon store in Inglewood, California, to a group of students, including two from her own class, who enjoyed meeting other students from the community.
"The Verizon labs have allowed me to experience the fun types of engineering careers that are available,” said student Delayna Derr. “I love how you can participate in it with other people."
Delayna’s friend and classmate Raquel Licea agreed and said, “The lab helps me to expand my knowledge of engineering, and I love how hands-on it is."
For Garcia, one of the most rewarding parts of instructing the lab is seeing families get involved. She said she’s had many conversations with parents who are genuinely interested in finding ways to bring STEM learning experiences to their children’s schools.
“These relationships, along with those I am forming with the kids, make the experience of working with Verizon truly special,” she said. “The lab allows any student to have access to hands-on learning. I love being able to expand the PLTW experience outside my classroom and expose even more kids and their families to this exciting learning.”
PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram recently visited two Verizon Innovative Learning Labs and met some of the young innovators.
“Students must understand that what they learn in classrooms is relevant in the real world,” Bertram said. “Thanks to Verizon, more students now have access to computer science education inside and outside their school day.”
“It’s our goal to transform students from users of technology to creators with technology,” added Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education programs at Verizon. “We focus on middle-school students in particular, because they are at a critical turning point when they are at risk of losing interest in STEM. Through hands-on learning, students get engaged and begin to understand the tremendous possibilities available to them when they participate in these learning labs.”
To date, Verizon and PLTW have facilitated more than 400 Verizon Innovative Learning labs around the country, in more than 15 cities such as Boston, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and Seattle. There are 600-plus more opportunities around the country throughout the 2017-18 school year, and you can find one near you here.
For middle schools wishing to bring computer science learning to their students in an in-school setting, PLTW and Verizon Innovative Learning are offering $20,000 grants to eligible schools to assist with the implementation of PLTW Gateway computer science units, PLTW App Creators and PLTW Computer Science for Innovators and Makers. Learn more about the grant opportunity and apply by Dec. 15 here.