Philadelphia Area STEM Outreach - Penrose Elementary School
A Peacemaking Project by Emily Y.
What is the injustice we are solving?
My goal is to expose underprivileged students to STEM fields by doing activities with them and providing them with mentors who are of a similar age. The project will also encourage racial minorities and females, who are underrepresented in STEM fields currently, to explore STEM fields further, even if they are not extremely emphasized in their own schools.
Our Compassionate Solution:
To solve this injustice of inequality in STEM fields
we will address underfunding in public schools in low-income areas
by holding STEM seminars at those schools to give students exposure to STEM activities, and to show them that there are other students like them who are passionate about the same subjects.
Our Project Plan:
- To introduce to Philadelphia's elementary school students who come from low-income families essential STEM skills through three general seminars 1. Electronics: examining the flow of electricity, electric connections, and using electricity to solve real-life issues 2. Coding: what is coding and its applications, basic functions of code 3. Robotics: building basic robots, understanding the uses of robots and the benefits they provide to society
We will increase my / our compassion by...
We will increase our compassion by reaching out to local, underfunded school districts in hopes of informing students on the importance of STEM careers in society and promoting futures in such fields. Because of the complexity of this task, we will work with the school administrations that host our seminars to understand the community's outlook on STEM as well as potential causes of the absence of STEM opportunities at such schools.
How will you show courage?
Faced will the difficulty of promoting STEM, especially in financially underfunded communities, we will show courage by taking on this challenge and aiming to create a long-term emphasis on STEM fields. Furthermore, we will take responsibility of the children we are instructing during the seminars, keeping them on task and focused throughout the activities.
How will you collaborate with others?
We will cooperate with school officials from the school where we hold the seminars by organizing the seminars through frequent emails. In addition, we will provide the school officials and teachers who are helping to run the seminar with a detailed plan regarding the specific activities we plan to do during each seminar. In addition, we will be directly interacting with middle school students during the seminars to teach them about each activity and how to interact with the devices (robots, basic electrical engineering toys, basic coding). We will also be updating parents with information about the seminars so they have an understanding of what their children will learn and how we're teaching each of the 3 STEM topics.
How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)
Before the seminars, we will be successful if we can encourage students to register and create an efficient plan that is customized to expand upon the school’s STEM syllabus. Throughout the seminars, we will be moving in the right direction if the students understand the concepts and develop an interest in pursuing STEM.
- Talk to the administration at Unionville High School to understand which schools in the Philadelphia area lack proper access to STEM resources
- Reach out to STEM teachers at the school we will conduct the seminars at to determine logistics of the seminar like number of attendees and location
- Streamline and personalize the curriculum for each seminar based on the logistics
- Send the plan for each seminar to the STEM teachers
- Conduct three seminars that provide an overview and introduce the basics of key facets of STEM
- Update parents with details about the seminars
How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?
When working with the kids, we saw how excited they were to see all the STEM activities we had brought and to try them out for themselves. I personally oversaw the electronics session with the snap circuit board and couldn’t stop smiling every time the students giggled at the rainbow lights or farting machine they had just built. We realized how important it is for every child to have the chance and freedom to explore like those students did in that seminar. Additionally, upon stepping into the school, I knew it was not well-funded--the walls were dirty, the facilities outdated, and technology limited. The library was the size of a small classroom and filled with only a dozen shelves of books. I learned at the seminar that while the students didn’t have the quality of education many students in my school district enjoy, they share the same eagerness and potential to succeed--they’re just in need of the support and guidance to get them there. It struck me how you could have the exact same individual--with the same intelligence, personality, and genes--but when he/she is placed in a well-rounded environment versus a poor one, they’ll be drastically different from each other--possibly like opposites.
How did your community change as a result of your project?
The STEM seminar encouraged changes among the Penrose students, faculty, and curriculum. It inspired multiple students to explore STEM outside of school. The website created for the coding seminar was given as an opportunity for students to try coding activities on their own. The Snap Circuits and Robotics Kits we introduced to teachers and students were donated to Penrose so that they could be implemented into class activities in the future. Additionally, more students at our high school became interested in participating in our club’s upcoming STEMinars. This is a big win because it brings attention to our club’s goals and demonstrates that students at our school care about social injustice and are willing to take a stand and help.
How many people were impacted by your project?
Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?
We worked with the 40 Penrose students who had attended our event and there were roughly a dozen adults who we had communicated with to make the STEMinar work.
How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?
We communicated with our school administrators who helped us gain communication with the administration at Penrose Elementary School.
What did your team learn?
We learned how to adapt quickly to new circumstances and provide engaging content for the students despite the limited resources and sometimes hectic environment. Upon our arrival at Penrose, we realized that there was much more than the twenty some students who had registered for our event. While it was a big surprise, we learned how to engage and encourage an interest in STEM from among all of the students. We also learned how to act quickly and decisively because nothing will turn out perfectly--you just have to work with what you’ve got and try your hardest to provide the best experience for the students.
What challenges did your team overcome?
We had expected only 20 some students to participate in the activity based on the information we were provided in advance by the school. However, over forty students signed up and participated in the STEM seminar. Originally, the robotics and electronics seminars were created for only about 5 students at a time. However, by splitting up the students into three larger, rotating groups, we ensured that all of the students could learn and enjoy the activities we had planned.
How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?
To carry out and expand this project, we contacted our own school administrators as well as multiple teachers from the school where we held the seminar. To connect with administrators from the K-8 school, we talked to the Superintendent and Director of Education from our school district, who connected us with one of the elementary school principals from our own district; he was then able to provide us with contact information for a K-8 school in Philadelphia that was willing to host our seminar. From there, we contacted the head of extracurricular activities at Penrose Elementary, as well as three STEM teachers. They all attended the seminar to ensure that students can use the resources we donated in the future, whether it is during recess, in class, or after school. We also discussed the goals of our STEMinars and activities with students at our school to promote awareness and encourage more people to come out and volunteer.
What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?
Our advice to someone starting a peacemaking project would be to contact people in your community to help build connections with those outside of your community. When we first started the project, we were unable to get a response from schools because we attempted to contact them directly. However, once we met with our own school administrators, they were able to use their connections to help us organize the seminar at a school. It is also important to get as many of your friends, family, and peers involved as possible and explain to them your goals--why you would like to make a difference through a peacemaking project.