COLORADO SPRINGS — Learning is full steam ahead for students in the Pikes Peak Region thanks to a unique summer program. It’s all about finding that spark that inspires each student through immersive learning and group activities.

Full STEAM Ahead is held each summer at The Colorado Springs School. The free two week program is offered to around 50 rising 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade students.

The smaller groups offer unique ways to explore technology, the arts, sciences, and learn more about the community through thematic field trips and experiences.

Full STEAM Ahead is teaching students that school happens outside the classroom.

“We got to really work in a team environment, and it didn’t feel like school. It felt like we were purposefully learning about different concepts,” said Gisselle Zamora, a Peak Education Intern and Full STEAM Ahead mentor this summer.

Building and programming robots, dance therapy, and dissecting sheep brains are just some of the immersive activities middle schoolers take part in each summer.

“In traditional school, it’s very fast paced. And in this school, you get to build upon yourself, and people will see you grow,” said Gabriel Weber. “I was not very sociable before. But being in the program has really allowed me to grow upon that aspect of myself. I got to meet a lot of new mentors and make a lot of great connections.” 

The Full STEAM Ahead program is engaging students in a special way.

“A lot of students associate learning with school only, and it’s hard for you to dive deep into your intellectual curiosity. But this program really helps you look at it in different perspectives, like going out in your community and working with other students,” said Zamora.

The program brings together students across 12 schools through a partnership with Peak Education. The free option hopes to close education opportunity gaps for kids coming from low-income backgrounds.

“They’re going to dissect sheep brains. They’re going back to the Colorado College brain lab to actually see and hold human brains. Then at the innovation and discovery level, which is raising eighth grade, they build their own robots and program them,” said Amy Miller, Program Director for Full STEAM Ahead.

“They think well what’s the problem I need to solve, is this going to work, and if not let me quickly adjust and make a better design. So that started with robotics. Then we added brain science and psychology,” said Anne Taylor, Peak Education Mentoring & College Success Coordinator.

Anne Taylor started this program in 2012 after being inspired by a similar one.

“I taught for 28 years and in all the things I’ve done in my career I think this is the most important. Partly because a program like this is what inspired me to become a teacher and spend my life in education,” said Taylor.

This immersive learning style is helping students find their spark.

“Seeing the sparks fly from kids as they realize different concepts that they never had thought of before, of diving deeply into any sort of topic, whether it’s the brain or robotics or design thinking. It’s so incredibly rewarding to watch that sort of influence just blossom,” said Miller.

Some students were so inspired by their time in the program, they’re returning as high school mentors to help guide middle schoolers through it.

Smaller groups also help students back connections and relationships with students from across the community.

“For me, I am not very sociable before. But being in the program has really allowed me to grow upon that aspect of myself. I got to meet a lot of new mentors and make a lot of great connections,” said Weber.

Full STEAM Ahead is helping students see just how bright their future is.

“This program really helped me grow my interest for business. So I really want to work with different businesses in Colorado Springs, both for profit and nonprofit, and just develop connections with the Colorado Springs community,” said Zamora.

“I feel this program has really allowed me to expand on like my interests and things that I really want to pursue and dental hygiene. It’s kind of like helping people cause I make people smile,” said Weber.