SSFUSD Launches Summer STEM Institute for Elementary and Middle School Students (Re-broadcast)

South San Francisco, CA  June 21, 2016 from OpTerra Energy Services (submitted by Jaime Gonzalez)

OpTerra STEM Educator Alison Smith works with SSFUSD teachers during the first week of the District's Summer STEM Institute. OpTerra has provided professional development training and hands-on energy curriculum tied to STEM for teachers throughout grade levels.

OpTerra STEM Educator Alison Smith works with SSFUSD teachers during the first week of the District’s Summer STEM Institute. OpTerra has provided professional development training and hands-on energy curriculum tied to STEM for teachers throughout grade levels.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., June 20, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) officials are excitedly launching the District’s first ever Summer STEM Institute this June. This special program is another important example of the District’s commitment to being a leader in educating students in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) in order to prepare them for success in high school, college, and the ever-increasing technical careers of the 21st Century.

The Summer STEM Institute is one of the first priority projects to emerge from SSFUSD’s broader sustainability partnership with OpTerra Energy Services. OpTerra’s team of STEM educators has been closely collaborating with Interim Associate Superintendent of Educational Services and Categorical Programs, Dr. Leticia Bhatia, and her team to develop a well-rounded, district-wide program that brings STEM, sustainability, and a real-world industry perspective to the teachers and students of SSFUSD.

“We are thrilled to be launching the Summer STEM Institute – it is an exciting learning opportunity for our students and professional development opportunity for our teachers. Providing world-class enrichment experiences like this is a hallmark of the District’s commitment to cultivating the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and innovators,” shared Superintendent Shawnterra Moore.

The Summer STEM Institute is focused on Grades 2-8, and will incorporate hands-on STEM activities, real-world relevance, and project-based learning. All of the lessons, activities, experiments and design challenges are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards.

SSFUSD Board of Trustee President Patrick Lucy commended the program, saying, “The students and families that depend on our local public schools know that STEM learning is no longer an elective. STEM learning is a critical and essential learning tool for every student to succeed in their education and any career path they choose.”

Students in Grades 2-5 will participate in a four-week program totaling 64 hours of curriculum designed to introduce them to electricity, renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, and the engineering design process. While steeped in science, engineering and technology, the program also incorporates math, literacy, and art. Activities in the Summer STEM Institute will include building energy transformation machines, engineering solar ovens, designing and testing wind turbine blades, and conducting classroom energy audits.

Students in Grades 7-8 will participate in a four-week program totaling 88 hours of curriculum designed to introduce them to renewable energy and energy conservation while involving them in hands-on activities, scientific experiments, and multimedia presentations. This program will also engage students deeply in the engineering design process. Activities will include building Rube Goldberg machines, designing circuit mazes, and designing, building and testing efficient homes.

“The OpTerra team is thrilled to support the District’s implementation of the Summer STEM Institute. Our core values as a company motivate us to do more than just modernize facilities and engineer technical solutions. Our work must also empower and support teachers and students in leveraging their campus sustainability projects into real-world classroom learning opportunities,” commented OpTerra Regional Director Courtney Jenkins.

About the South San Francisco School District: Located in San Mateo County, California, the South San Francisco Unified School District serves elementary, middle and high school students in the City of South San Francisco and a portion of the City of Daly City. The District’s website can be found at

About OpTerra Energy Services: OpTerra Energy Services is a national energy company that works with education, local government, commercial, industrial, and institutional organizations to implement efficiency and sustainable energy solutions that save money, enhance safety, improve assets, and protect the environment. As a subsidiary of ENGIE, the number one energy efficiency services provider in the world, OpTerra Energy Services provides a unique and extensive set of energy and sustainability management services to thousands of customers across the U.S. The company has provided more than $2 billion in energy savings for its customers over the past 40 years. To learn more, please visit or contact Lani Wild, Communications Manager, at 415-735-9080.


UPDATE: Many parents were interested in this program yet had never heard about it prior to our sharing of this article. We contacted Dr. Shawnterra Moore, Superintendent of SSFUSD and appreciate her reply below:

In South San Francisco Unified School District, in partnership with Opterra Energy, our 2nd – 5th STEM program focuses on providing English Language Arts and Mathematics instruction through engaging STEM learning opportunities to students who ordinarily may not express an interest in STEM related courses such as this.

We would have loved to open the program up to all students; unfortunately, due to the restricted federal funding of these programs, the student enrollment criteria was limited and student applications were invitation only based on student criteria that we had to use in order to offer this program. Invitations to students were given out by the site principal end of April/beginning of May. We have received positive feedback from parents, teachers and students and, if funding allows, we hope to grow our program and extend invitations for the 2017 summer school STEM program. I appreciate the feedback because it will assist us in how to move forward in the future when we offer programs such as this to our students!

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