Summer enrichment with FIRST using hands-on learning

Jun 03, 2021 By Libby Simpson, FIRST Director of Education




The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our students are becoming more apparent.  We know that the typical way of teaching and learning has changed drastically over the last year and a half. The impacts are widespread, from student mental health and anxiety to loss of knowledge, and many have more heavily impacted students of color. So, what can we do to help?  The FIRST community is not one to back down from a challenge, and in this article, you will learn about members of the FIRST community who are making a difference.  They may even inspire you to set up some learning opportunities this summer in your communities. 

STEM Enrichment Outside of the School Bells

Research by the AfterSchool Alliance demonstrates that afterschool and summer learning programs are effective at increasing student’s attendance, course credits, and on-time graduation and improving performance in subjects like math and English. Perhaps most importantly, students in afterschool and summer learning programs build social and emotional skills and connections with peers and caring adults. As this video from the Afterschool Alliance shows, students value and recognize the importance of learning outside of the bells.  

Summer learning and enrichment are critical for reconnecting students with their peers. We will focus on the tools and techniques at your disposal through FIRST to meet students' social, emotional, and academic needs this summer.  FIRST has always engaged students in exciting evidence-based programs that use robotics competitions as the vehicle. FIRST programs help students channel their raw curiosity to think critically and seek ways to improve the world around them.

In the summer and afterschool learning environment, FIRST programs can be implemented flexibly and integrated into the routine of program structures through our competitive season of programs, flexible Class Pack curriculum, or free FIRST @ Home activity series.  These evidence-based program options develop holistic skills, innovative thinking, and awareness of career pathways for the future. 

Below, learn how three FIRST community members are changing the game by providing ongoing STEM learning opportunities for students using the resources from our FIRST @ Home curriculum series.

FIRST @ Home using the remote learning platform Scoutlier

Brandy Jackson, a robotics teacher and instructional designer shared her experiences using the FIRST @ Home content on Scoutlier in a remote learning environment to engage her students:

“One of the Scoutlier FIRST @ Home activities that is my favorite is the Circuit Activity. Circuits can be complicated to learn because you have to have all the components, but in the one designed by FIRST, you’re actually using a software so the kids get to come in and experiment … and then they show what they created.”

Watch our conversation to explore how Brandy plans to engage students this summer and her advice for ways to follow in her footsteps to build positive relationships with your students. 


FIRST @ Home for your competitive team skill-building

Coach MacFarland from FIRST Tech Challenge team “MoCoSTUDS 17037” shared her experiences using FIRST @ Home to benefit her team members by continuing to engage them in STEM learning experiences.  Her high school team hosted activity sessions over Zoom to inspire lower-grade students in STEM.

“We looked through the FIRST @ Home curriculum and found the class on designing a boat. ... That lesson was really collaborative so they had to talk through what would be in the boat, and they enjoyed that method of thinking about science in a different way from school.”

Watch our conversation to learn more about how to use FIRST @ Home resources with your FIRST competition teams and to introduce new students to robotics. 

Team community outreach using FIRST @ Home

FIRST Robotics Competition team “LAUNCH TEAM 6352” has engaged over 100 students in their community using FIRST @ Home activities. Team president Noel said the team appreciated having activities for every age group so every student could participate.

“We really wanted to make sure that the kids were having fun and they were encouraged to use their creativity. We didn’t want it to feel like homework.”

LAUNCH TEAM hopes to inspire others to host similar projects in their communities this summer.  Watch our conversation to learn what Noel has to share about creating hand-on activity packets and running live learning sessions. 



Download FIRST @ Home Activities

Don’t miss the newest addition to the FIRST @ Home curriculum series
supporting social-emotional learning – FIRST Core Values Activities!


If you have an inspiring story or piece of wisdom that you’ve picked up through your experiences in the FIRST community, please reach out to us at and inquire about becoming a guest contributor for Inspire.

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