The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has created a STEM movement with ever increasing needs for Computational Thinking (CT). Not only is CT needed for the K-12 student body, but also for existing and up-and-coming teaching professionals. This paper describes a unique STEM Institute where a Midwestern university has partnered with a local school district to provide a month long summer outreach program for 5th-9th grade students. During this institute, groups of pre-service teachers from the university are paired with experienced K-12 teachers from the school district or instructors/professors from the university. This provides a practical scenario for education students to gain hands-on experience while also learning innovative ways to incorporate STEM and CT into their future classrooms. The results of this paper come from two different sessions: Mission to Mars for 5th-7th graders, and Game Design for 8th-9th graders. Both sessions used Scratch to teach CT and computer programming; however, Mission to Mars emphasized computer science theory by simulating the Mars rover AI, whereas the other used video game design to illustrate CT and programming concepts. Each session lasted one week and was primarily ran by the professional teacher for the first two weeks. During the third week, the preservice teachers chose one of the activities to lead. By the fourth week, the session was primarily ran by the preservice teachers with the professional teachers only intervening when necessary. Pre- and post- surveys were collected each week. The instrument’s reliability was confirmed with a Chronbach’s Alpha of .908. Our sample contained 101 students, 10 of which were excluded for incomplete surveys. This left 50 students from Mission to Mars and 41 students from Game Design that were included in analysis. The surveys focused on self-efficacy in STEM as well as CT and computer programming. However, background in programming and other STEM activities, as well as 21st century learning skills related to math, engineering and technology, and leadership were also measured. Pre-surveys showed that 81.32 percent of students were confident in math and lead to no increase in post-survey results. However, a major increase was found in student confidence in most engineering and technology learning skills. Student confidence in leadership also showed improvement, although not as significant, and was only prominent in the lower grade levels. Positive trends in relation to student self-efficacy was also prominent in the lower grade levels for students who have participated in STEM outreach programs. Overall, both Mission to Mars and Game Design showed a statistically significant (p < .001) positive gain in CT and programming concepts from the pre-survey (M = 52.39, SD = 27.7) to the post-survey (M = 64.76, SD = 21.3).
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