Exploring STEM With
Youth at
the UW

John Parker

Working with adults has certain limitations, especially when you contrast the experience with teaching students in the Summer Youth programs. For John, the creativity of youth inspires him.

For my Summer Youth STEM students, it’s one part learning about technology applications and one part creativity. Personally, I get so much out of learning with my students.

 — John Parker

When it comes to teaching his students, John Parker adheres to a simple maxim.

“My main rule is if I’m having fun, then they’re going to have fun,” John said. 

John, a STEM curriculum specialist for Seattle Public Schools, has been having fun with his students every summer since 2011, when he began teaching for UW Summer Youth.  

Each summer, John and his students have myriad opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering and math topics in cutting-edge settings — from building solar panels at the UW Clean Energy Institute to learning about drones’ technical applications at the UW Autonomous Flight Systems Laboratory. 

“The Summer Youth program has developed a lot of connections across campus, and they’re always so eager to have us,” John said. “These researchers are more than happy to have the kids come in.”

John uses these experiences to help shape curricula that get his students excited about education. 

“I try to come up with projects that are really fun and interesting and tap into the kids’ creativity,” he said. “I really like to have that creativity element where kids get to think outside the box and come up with their own design solutions.” 

John has largely worked with middle-school students, and he enjoys the energy they bring to his classroom each summer. 

“Working with adults can get kind of old,” he said with a laugh. “Getting to work with students is so refreshing: getting to see them at work and seeing them learn from the lessons is so much fun. It’s kind of like a little fountain of youth getting to be with them.”