STUDIO—a local innovation gaining national attention

When the White House was seeking innovative STEM education programs to feature as part of its first-ever Next Generation High Schools Summit in 2015, it called on UW College of Education Professor Leslie Herrenkohl.

STUDIO helps more than 125 West Seattle low-income middle-schoolers, many of them recent immigrants, build skills in STEM-related fields. It does so by pairing them with volunteer UW STEM undergrad mentors in an intensive—and fun—year-long after-school program. Participants can participate in writing computer code, learning engineering skills, exploring science through art—even assembling and launching rockets.

“Our project is really designed to reach out to kids who may not find science that interesting in school,” Herrenkohl said. “A lot of those kids are kids who live in poverty. They may be immigrants or second generation. Our project really wanted to work with that population of students.”

Partnerships drive the innovation

Like many College of Education research projects, STUDIO is focused on service to the community and relies heavily on collaborative, multidisciplinary partnerships for its innovative design.

STUDIO was developed in a multidisciplinary partnership called the 3DL partnership with the UW School of Social Work. Herrenkohl said the program’s design benefited greatly from significant intellectual and material contributions by the UW Dream Project and San Francisco’s Exploratorium, and funding support from the National Science Foundation and the National Library of Health. STUDIO is centered at West Seattle’s Neighborhood House, whose staff Herrenkohl said were instrumental in much of the program’s development—and who plan to continue STUDIO indefinitely due to its success, even after the research phase is complete.

“We couldn’t do this work alone, period. End of story,” Herrenkohl said. “That’s what makes working collaboratively so powerful and important. Together we’re able to harness the strengths and missions of each partner to meet a greater need in the community."

That strength, developed through collaboration, hasn’t gone unnoticed, Herrenkohl said. “We’ve talked to people around the country and locally who are interested in learning from us and partnering with us to expand the reach of the STUDIO approach.

“We need new and innovative approaches to education, because education is still our best tool for providing opportunity in our society. Our goal is to provide 100 percent of children and youth, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, disability status, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status a strong basic education—but we’re not there yet.”

Give to the UW College of Education’s Cradle to Career Innovation Fund and support emerging, high-impact research partnerships like STUDIO that are making learning come alive for all students across the P-20 continuum.