Sep 28

Pro sports can connect kids to afterschool STEAM learning

By Jesse Lovejoy, director of STEAM Education for the San Francisco 49ers and managing partner of EDU Academy. More information on 49ers STEAM programming is available here

On its best days, informal and afterschool education is cool. It’s different. It lights fires. For many kids, it’s a window into new way of thinking about subjects they either don’t know or think they don’t like. Sports can be a powerful connector of kids to content—one on which the San Francisco 49ers capitalize, through the organization’s education work in the Bay Area.

“Some kids think learning isn’t cool,” said George Garcia, lead STEAM instructor for Santa Clara Unified School District, “but you tie it into something they enjoy or see on TV and all of a sudden kids sit up straighter in the classroom and almost forget they’re learning.”

Garcia and thousands of other educators—and the students they reach—are the beneficiaries of the 49ers STEAM Education Program, a field trip experience, which has provided free STEAM learning experiences for more than 150,000 K-8 students since its inception in 2014. Its goal is simple: inspiring learning and curiosity for STEAM using the game of football and Levi’s® Stadium as the common denominator.

Students, and their teachers, spend a day at the Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and engage in a wide variety of activities that show what STEM looks like in the real world. For example, kids tour the stadium and talk about structural engineering and responsible irrigation practices; they engage in physical discover the physics behind the motion of a football! The field trip experience is completely free and the 49ers provide a transportation subsidy for those that need it. Ultimately, the 49ers program exists to accomplish its mission of lighting a fire for STEAM in K-8 students in the Bay Area—and to do so with as few barriers to entry as possible.

A new frontier

Despite the impact the 49ers program and others like it have on students by working with schools and districts, it is crucial to also look to at the out-of-school hours as a way to continue to inspire learning. Afterschool education is a building block to the success of learners and the 49ers recognize its value. I’m excited to announce that the organization will launch an afterschool program in partnership with 49ers Academy in East Palo Alto as a beta test for what the future may hold for the organization in the afterschool world, and is actively looking at a number of other partnerships to buoy the quality of the category in the Bay Area.

Along with a laser focus on developing powerful afterschool programming and continuing to grow its flagship field trip initiative, the 49ers are focusing on making their program the start of something bigger across the professional sports landscape. The organization understands and embraces the need for quality afterschool and other out-of-school time as a key piece of an educational ecosystem that prepares the country’s young people to succeed.

“We would love to not be the only ones doing this,” said 49ers President Al Guido. “We would love to inspire other sports teams and if we could join the California sports teams together to get them to help in this youth education space, the impact would be outstanding. We’re not just the 16 to 20 games we play on the field. We have the ability to really impact kids.”