Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Educational Outreach has received a $50,000 gift from Phillips 66 to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in the Houston area.

The gift will provide teacher training, Think Like an Engineer curriculum materials and supplies to four schools in the Houston Independent School District for after-school enrichment programs for fifth grade students.

The schools in which the after-school program will be implemented include Benavidez Elementary, Emerson Elementary, Piney Point Elementary, and Sylvan Rodriguez Elementary.

“These schools have large enrollments of underrepresented minority students and at-risk students, and many of them, unless they receive encouragement, don’t consider going into STEM careers,” said Dr. Nancy Moreno, senior associate director of the Center for Educational Outreach at Baylor and associate provost of faculty development and institutional research. “The focus of the after-school programs is going to be on giving these students hands-on STEM activities to generate enthusiasm for STEM while simultaneously preparing them academically as they go into middle school.”

With this gift, the Center for Educational Outreach, which began in 1996, will be able to continue its mission to improve biomedical, basic science and health education across the K-16 continuum and to increase opportunities for underrepresented populations to access careers in medicine, science and engineering professions.

“We invest in education because an educated workforce drives the world's economy. Through the Think Like an Engineer program, we aim to instill a love of STEM disciplines and develop tomorrow’s problem solvers,” said Claudia Kreisle, director of Philanthropy and Community Engagement at Phillips 66. 

“The after-school program is being offered at a critical time for students because their interest in and preparedness for success in STEM-related careers often are shaped in the fifth grade,” Moreno said. In addition, jobs in STEM fields are predicted to grow twice as fast as the nation’s overall job market, so the after-school program is an important introduction to future job opportunities.    

Moreno added that the curriculum for the after-school program is designed to match STEM career opportunities in Houston. 

“Houston is a huge petrochemical center so the Think Like an Engineer module follows from that, the Think Like a Microbiologist module is related to so much of the work that goes on at the Texas Medical Center, and the Think Like an Astronaut module is related to the aerospace industry,” said Moreno. “We are building the future STEM workforce in Houston.”