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STEM and Science Service Learning Programs



  • Art of Printing – 2015-2016 – Students spent their fall learning about many different printing techniques from low tech to high tech. Participants of the Expanding Horizons after-school program at the Bowditch Middle School tried Suminagashi printing, screen printing and 3D printing.  This was a blended STEM and Arts curriculum.

  • CSI Forensics Unit – 2016 – Starting in January 2016, 25 participants of the Expanding Horizons after-school program spent ten weeks learning about crime scene investigation and forensic science to then solve a crime, “The Mystery of the Stolen Bearded Dragon,” using the skills learned.

  • Food Science Unit – 2016 – Students conducted a series of food science experiments to explore topics like food chemistry (how ingredients react with each other in a recipe), food safety (how important it is to be clean when working with food), and nutrition (how fat molecules get stored and used in our body).

  • JV InvenTeams, Sound Engineering – 2016 – Students learned how sound travels, how speakers function, and how to use electronics to create music. Students closed out the session by building their own giant speaker based on what they learned. This curriculum was developed by the Lemelson-MIT Program and adapted for our students by LEAP staff.

  • JV InvenTeams, Shoe Soles – 2016-2017 – This science class includes solving problems, creating, doing hands-on and minds-on activities, using tools, and ‘working as a TEAM’. Students will design a shoe sole specific to their interests, and make community connections by visiting the Peabody Essex Museum’s new shoe exhibit.

  • Hydro/Aquaponics – 2017 – Hydroponics, a trend in agricultural practice around the world, eliminates the need for soil to grow plants. Aquaponics gardening adds fish to the hydroponics system to create a symbiotic environment. Following the engineering and design process, students investigated this process and helped enhance the Nathaniel Bowditch Greenhouse by building their own aquaponics gardening unit using PVC pipe.

  • Future City – 2011-2017 – For the 7th year, LEAP middle school students participated in the Future City Competition. The theme this year was ‘The Age Friendly City’. The challenge was to design an innovative city that best meets the needs of all ages, especially senior citizens.

  • Skills and Drills – 2017-2018 – Students have participated in pilot interdisciplinary classes where they get to play a sport, and learn about the science behind performing well. This includes study of the human body, nutrition, and exercise science. We are continually working to bridge the gap between student interests and STEM.

  • Outdoor Explorers – 2017-2018 – A team of students is exploring the Salem Woods under the guidance of an environmental scientist from Salem Sound Coastwatch. This program incorporates components from our summer marine science program with more of an environmental focus. The curriculum this Spring is focused on geological mapping, the tracking of trees and birds, and water quality testing in wooded areas.

  • Brain Science – 2018 – Students went on a journey through the brain – learning how it works, the role each lobe plays, and the fundamentals of the nervous system and neuropsychology –through hands-on experiments and model building.

  • LEGO Robotics – 2018 – Students have learned how to build basic robot designs and understand how the motorized pieces work. Each week, they have a new design challenge to work on. For example, a recent challenge was to program a robot so that when it hits a wall an arbitrary distance away, it can use its touch sensor to change directions. This challenges teaches students both how the sensor can be used, and how to implement a while loop.


  • Food Science – 2017 – Students will be introduced to a variety of trades such as electrical, mechanics, and construction through a STEM lens. The different career paths through different training programs and college majors will be discussed.

  • Neuroscience – 2017 – Students went on a journey through the brain – learning how it works, the role each lobe plays, and the fundamentals of the nervous system and neuropsychology –through hands-on experiments and model building. The session culminated in the dissection of a sheep’s brain at Salem State University’s science lab.

  • Career Slam – 2018 – Weekly career roundtable discussions were hosted in the Teen Center. These discussions brought a range of professionals from a particular area, such as engineering or healthcare, together to share with students the different career paths they followed, challenges they’ve experienced, and answers to student questions about their field.

  • Tricks of the Trade – 2018 – Students will be introduced to a variety of trades such as electrical, mechanics, and construction through a STEM lens. The different career paths through different training programs and college majors will be discussed.

ZERO ROBOTICS – Summers of 2010-2018

Zero Robotics is a computer programming and engineering program for middle school students sponsored by MIT, NASA and the Massachusetts Afterschool Project. This is LEAP’s 5th year participating in the program. The goal is to program a miniature satellite to compete against other teams’ satellites in zero gravity. The preliminary rounds are simulated, but the final competition is broadcast from the International Space Station. This year, we had our biggest team yet at 20 students. This summer’s field trips included visits to MIT in Cambridge, iRobot in Bedford, and Harmonic Drive in Peabody. In 2016, our team won first place in the Regional Competition and came in 5th place out of 12 in the ISS Final National Competition! In 2017, Gloucester fielded its first ZR team and came in 5th in Massachusetts.

GIRLS WHO CODE – 2016-2018

LEAP for Education was approved by the national organization Girls Who Code to start its own club here in Salem. The Club started meeting at LEAP in January of 2016. Middle school and high school girls are learning how to code, build websites, write phone apps, design games and more. Girls participated in DigiGirlz Day at Microsoft and this year took field trips to the MIT Museum and Museum of Science.

Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. With support from public and private partners, Girls Who Code works to educate, inspire, and equip high school girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in computing fields.

MAGIC Mentoring Program – LEAP has been partnering with this organization for a full year now. MAGIC provides one-on-one mentoring in STEM for middle and high school girls; mentors and mentees “meet” weekly in this program. Girls who participate in this progrma will explore their interest under the virtual mentorship of a women in STEM and complete a summer project.


In 2017 – Robotics: Beat the Challenge – The students learn ways to create robots for specific purposes and to perform certain functions.  The students work in teams or by themselves.  Each week they work on their robots (building, programming and performing challenges).

In 2017 – Coding (Beginner/Advanced sections) – Students use MIT Scratch programming to create computer generated programming for a variety of uses. Students are encouraged to use key computational thinking concepts and key computational skills.These include creating interactive games, videos, and interactive stories.

Summer, 2017 – Science Grad – students explore careers in science and engineering.  Through hands on activities, including work at the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy, visits to colleges, and speakers from STEM fields, students investigate what it takes to be a scientist and engineer.


The purpose of service learning is to partner the schools and community organizations in leading students to solve a real community problem.  Through academically rigorous content, student ownership and strong community partnerships students learn about their communities and collaborate on projects that address an identified problem.

TALKING TRASH – 2015-2017

Ten of our high school juniors and seniors from LEAP joined Salem Sound Coastwatch staffers for 6 months in studying the impact of human-produced trash on ocean pollution. Cleverly named “Talking Trash”, our students engaged in research and projects to support SSCW’s activities as part of a NOAA Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach grant. One group of students, as an example, recruited artists to paint the trash barrels at Salem Willows to raise awareness about trash pollution and raise the visibility of the trash barrels along the beach and park areas. Another team worked with the City to increase the visibility of the cigarette bins. Two students were chosen to work as paid summer interns at SSCW.  The following year, another 10 high school youth worked on “Talking Trash”.

HEALTHY HARBORS – Summers of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018

Healthy Harbors is the name of the summer program run under the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant and the After-School, Out of School Time grants awarded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

This summer, the marine environment science program for 60 middle school students will run at Salem High School in partnership with the school district and Salem Sound Coastwatch. Our younger students will focus on biodiversity and how and why certain species are being threatened in Salem Sound. Our older students who have participated in Healthy Harbors in previous summers will form a team to develop a more advanced project that applies their experience and knowledge to the environments in their local neighborhoods.