Impact Community

For McClymonds High School Students, Crucible Classes Offer A Respite

By Cathy Niland | 3.31.2021

After more than a year of remote learning, students are struggling to find focus at home. Here in West Oakland, McClymonds High School has seen an uptick in absences as students cope with feelings of isolation and a lack of motivation. “You’re not getting that day-to-day experience,” explained McClymonds junior, Isaiah Smiley in a recent ABC7 interview at The Crucible. “When we’re at school, and we see our friends, I feel like it pushes you to want to do better in class. Now it’s like our school and our home are all in one. You can’t really go and separate the two.”

In the fall of 2019, The Crucible launched a three-year, grant-funded program with McClymonds to offer hands-on classes to engineering students. The program focused on two goals; to provide opportunities to explore STEAM concepts through projects in Crucible departments like Welding, Foundry, and Bike Shop, and offer to offer classes like Ceramics and Leather Working after OUSD art programs suffered due to budget cuts.

What Can In-Person STEAM Learning Do For McClymonds High School Students?

Hands-on creative learning has proven crucial in helping students better solidify science and math concepts and build better problem-solving skills. A 2020 paper published by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education states that, “Through STEAM, learners make connections more easily between content areas that were previously taught in silos. Design learning offers an opportunity for students to create, respond, reflect, connect, and produce in an interactive way.” Though the pandemic forced us to pause most of our programs, we were determined to continue with McClymonds in some capacity as soon as it was deemed safe.

A few months ago, McClymonds students returned to The Crucible for modified sessions. It’s the only in-person learning participants have had access to since the pandemic began and has provided a much-needed respite from their remote classrooms. “We are lucky,” said McClymonds College/Career Readiness Manager Coleen Piper. “We have worked with The Crucible and we are doing in-person classes with welding, glass working, and even ceramics, and students can sign up and get out of the house.”

Changes to The Program To Better Support McClymonds Students

Unlike the first iteration of the program, students are now welcome to sign up for as many or as few individual 3-hour classes as they like, instead of committing to a 5-week class in a single department. Youth Program Associate Samantha Espinoza says it’s easy to tell they’re excited. “If I give them a phone call to confirm that they’re coming. It’s like an emphatic ‘Yes!’. They don’t bail, they come on time—I get to see that they are really interested in what’s going on.”

The program has expanded to welcome students outside of the engineering track which has proven incredibly beneficial to those looking to reconnect with their peers and get out of the house. “It gave me a piece of that school experience again,” shared Smiley. “Just being around people and able to talk to them and laugh, it just felt like I was in that school environment again.”

Additionally, McClymonds teachers have been invited to join classes alongside their students, providing an unexpected benefit to all involved. “This is their first time meeting some of these students in person,” explained Samantha. “They’ve been doing online schooling with them, but they’ve never actually met them. Once they make that connection, teachers noticed that their student will have their camera on, or they will answer a question or just unmute themselves. It’s impacting the online lessons because the student got to have a one on one experience with their teacher.” 

Learn more about the impact of remote learning on OUSD McClymonds students in the recent ABC7 program MACK.

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