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Brick & Beam Society Announces Summer STEM Investments

United Way of Greater Portland individual giving group Brick & Beam Society announced investments of $26,500 to support summer-focused programs and projects that target early childhood learning and STEM programming for children in pre-school through 8th grade. Programs were selected based on their level of impact, sustainability, being replicable, and for taking innovative, holistic, and collaborative approaches to learning.   

Two investments were selected that meet the criteria and align with Thrive2027 Goal 1: Giving Kids a Strong Start. Those summer focused investments made include $6,500 to The Rufus Porter Museum of Bridgton for Camp Invention Scholarships and $20,000 to LearningWorks, Side x Side, and The Telling Room for a collaborative Summer STEAM program for Elementary Students. 

In response to the pandemic, these programs quickly adjusted their models to ensure children could still virtually connect during summer months.  Summer learning and engagement are even more critical this summer to help prevent or lessen the impact of summer learning loss.  

The Rufus Porter Museum worked with their partners to establish a new, at-home version of Camp Invention for children in five towns in the MSAD-55 area, which includes Baldwin, Maine. The program consists of the delivery of kits with tools to each student, video check-ins with teachers, and a show-and-tell of final projects. Support of students in this region is critical as the median household income is well below that for Maine. Census data show that between one in six and one in four households receive food assistance (SNAP). 

LearningWorks, The Telling Room, and SidexSide shifted their programming to a virtual model as well. To maintain program plans, the teachers will meet with students virtually and engage them in the STEAM work via video chats and links. Programming benefits children in South Portland who live in neighborhoods where poverty has increased by over 10% in the last 10 years, with have above-average free and reduced lunch eligibility, as well as an increase in multilingual student populations. 

Summer investments allow organizations like LearningWorks, The Telling Room, and Side x Side to expand program partnerships and work together in new and creative ways. “We are thrilled to receive this investment from the Brick & Beam Society and United Way of Greater Portland,” shared Heather Davis, Executive Director with LearningWorks. “The Telling Room, Side x Side, and LearningWorks are kindred spirits, working to fill in gaps in school services and provide alternatives to kids who need them most. Our three organizations have banded together this year in recognition of our similar missions and strategy. We’re working to share resources, plan enhanced professional development offerings to our staff and teachers, and more. We are very excited to work together officially for the first time, helping stop the ‘summer slide’ for kids, all at no cost to them or their families.”  

Brick & Beam Society investments are funded through member donations and decided on by member volunteers. Investments are chosen based on their alignment with Thrive2027 and their ability to support early literacy and STEM programming for kids in Cumberland County.  

“Brick & Beam Society is focused on work and programs that help to ensure youth thrive. Through our summer investments geared towards educational enrichment opportunities that provide access to STEM/STEAM based programs and literacy support , we are helping to ensure that children get a strong start,” said Eric Sharkey, Brick & Beam Society Impact Investment Committee Chair. “We are passionate about and grateful for programs that allow us to leverage our dollars to make the most meaningful impact.” 

To learn more about United Way of Greater Portland’s Brick & Beam Society, and Thrive2027, our community’s three goals for a thriving future, visit unitedwaygp.org 


About United Way of Greater Portland  

For over 90 years, United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP)’s mission has been to improve people’s lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community. Today, UWGP unites individuals and organizations around our community’s shared vision, Thrive2027, three 10-year goals to improve education, financial stability, and health for every person in Greater Portland. With community partners, UWGP builds on strategies that are known to achieve the best results, and rigorously evaluates progress toward those goals. Everyone has a role to play in the recovery, rebuilding, and reimagining of our community to ensure a thriving future. UWGP actively seeks to engage donors, advocates, and volunteers to create measurable, long-lasting community change. Learn more at unitedwaygp.org. 

About Brick & Beam Society  

Brick & Beam Society is a community of established and emerging professionals committed to increasing STEM and educational enrichment opportunities for children in Greater Portland. Members represent companies from various industries and with a current membership of 150+ donors supporting this work. Since its launch in 2016, Brick & Beam Society has invested over $330,000 in early literacy and STEM/STEAM programs that are giving community’s children the gift of a lifetime-the power to create their own destiny. Learn more at brickandbeamsociety.org.

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