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Sparticl engages teens with free STEM resources

Curriculum directors have a free, robust resource at their fingertips

sparticl-freeA new free website is connecting teens with top-rated science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) content online, and also puts the power of information in students’ hands as it lets them submit content they find for inclusion on the site.

Launched on Oct. 1, is the product of Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) and 3M, and it aims to offer teenagers a free learning community that boosts and sustains their interest in STEM with articles, videos, games, and other hands-on activities.

Lots of great STEM content is free and available online, but sometimes students don’t notice it because it doesn’t appear on the first page of their search results, said Richard Hudson, executive producer at TPT. “There are excellent STEM websites that students never find because they’re not on the first page of Google,” he said.

(Next page: What’s on the site?)The site focuses on categories such as living things, matter and energy, tech and invention, body and brain, and Earth and space.

Teens can rank content, comment on it, and can share and recommend it. While doing this, they earn points and status. A Sparticl Teen Advisory Board reviewed the site while it was in beta mode.

“One great thing about Sparticl is that it includes both fun activities as well as educational resources. If you want to write a research paper, you will find great information on Sparticl, and it’s all credible,” said Hanna Endrias, 14, of Washington, D.C., in a Sparticl press release.

The free resource includes content from hundreds of sites, reviewed and vetted by a team of STEM content experts.

“We recognized a long time ago that we’ve got a challenge with trying to keep an adequate number of kids interested in STEM in high school, college, and then in a career,” said Terry O’Reilly, TPT’s chief content officer who oversees local and national programming, online media, production, and broadcast operations and engineering.

“The notion here is that we want learning, for kids, to be based in exploration,” O’Reilly said. Students can use Sparticl to answer a specific question or gather information on a specific topic, or they can simply bounce around and investigate anything that catches their eye.

“It’s really approachable, age-appropriate, professionally-vetted content,” he said.

“We want to find a way to ensure that when a kid enters high school, he or she doesn’t take just the minimum science requirements and decide that’s it. You lose these kids, and you don’t get them back. We look at Sparticl as a way for students to be engaged in STEM every day.”

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