On Tuesday, the 49ers officially kicked off the fourth year of their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education program that provides free field-trip education to K-8 schools throughout the Bay Area including Santa Clara Unified.
Along with continuing to teach kids about topics such as environmental sustainability and stadium engineering, the 49ers are introducing a brand-new teaching grant this year. The 49ers are introducing the Dr. Harry Edwards “Follow Your Bliss” grant which will be awarded annually to a Bay Area educator. According to the 49ers’ press release, the award will recognize “a full-time Bay Area educator who leads the future generation with purpose, passion, dedication and love with a $5,000 stipend for in-classroom materials and resources.”
Dr. Edwards is a nationally renowned sociologist, civil rights activist, educator, author, and 49ers team consultant.
Since the 49ers began the STEAM program in 2014, they have served over 150,000 Bay Area students, including nearly 8,000 from Santa Clara Unified schools. The program helped the 49ers earn the 2017 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year.
“The Santa Clara Unified schools are amazing,” commented Sofy Navarro, Manager of the STEAM Education program. “They are one of our best partners, we give them priority accommodations since they are in the area.”
Five days a week the 49ers host north of 300 students per day from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. It’s a full-day field-trip program led by Navarro and director Jesse Lovejoy. They lead a staff of five full-time and 14 part-time teachers who use football and the 49ers as a platform to teach kids about real life applications within the STEAM curriculum.
On Tuesday, the kids in attendance at Levi’s Stadium also got to enjoy a special guest visit by 49ers offensive lineman and starting center Daniel Kilgore. The Tennessee native has a passion for working in education, and was instantly drawn to the idea of surprising the kids with a visit during the team’s off day.
“When they asked me to do it, I said ‘sure,’ it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the classroom as a student teacher,” noted Kilgore, who was drafted by the 49ers in 2011. “It was cool to come in and see the students today. I’ve never been in a classroom like that before, I think it’s pretty cool for the 49ers to have this set up. The technology in there is absolutely unreal and to be able to use the platform that we have and reach out to these kids on the educational level is pretty special.”
The 49ers’ classrooms include interactive tables functioning as giant-sized I-pads, as well as magnetic walls and entire dry-erase tables where students can use markers to literally draw their designs on the table itself.
Along with the STEAM portion of the day, kids also get to play on the field, throw footballs and even test their jumping ability in the same way college players get tested prior to entering the NFL draft.
This year the 49ers’ STEAM education program hopes to reach over 5,500 students from Santa Clara Unified.
“These kids are walking through hall ways and seeing the behind the scenes stuff and that’s pretty special for them,” added Kilgore. “For the Santa Clara schools to have first rights to it is pretty awesome. It’s terrific that the 49ers open up their doors to the community.”