STEM Seminars in Underprivileged Schools

A Peacemaking Project by Mira Z., Aditi P. and Oscar D.

What is the injustice we are solving?

This project will introduce STEM Seminars to schools where STEM subjects are underrepresented because of financial reasons. By exposing less-privileged students to STEM subjects, they will have more of an equal opportunity to explore STEM in the future. The project will also encourage racial minorities and females, both of which are underrepresented in STEM, to explore the realm as an eventually possible career.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of inequality in accessibility of STEM activities
we will address under-funding in public schools in low-income areas
by holding STEM seminars at those schools to give students exposure to STEM activities

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • By the end of our seminar, we hope the elementary school students will understand essential STEM skills, such as programming, coding, and composition of electronics through our three STEM topics.
  • Electronics goal: Students should understand the flow of electricity, basic electric connections, and using electricity to solve issues.
  • Robotics goal: Students should understand how to build basic robots, program them, and understand uses of robots in the real world.
  • Coding goal: Students should understand coding's applicability in the real world and the basic functions of code.

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 this is a complex 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?

We understand the difficulty in promoting STEM, especially in financially underfunded communities. We will show courage by taking on this challenge 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 or teachers who are helping to run the seminar with a detailed plan regarding the specific activities we plan to do during each seminar. During the seminars, we will be directly interacting with middle school students to teach them about each activity and how to interact with the devices (robots, basic electrical engineering toys, basic coding) in each seminar. We will also be updating parents with information about the seminars so they have an understanding of what their children learning and how we’re teaching each topic.

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.

Key Steps

  • Create a basic plan of what will occur at each of the three STEM seminars to provide to our school administrators.
  • 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 seminar at to determine logistics of the seminar like number of attendees and location.
  • Streamline and personalize the curriculum for each subtopic (electronics, robotics, coding)based on the logistics.
  • Apply for a grant for STEM devices to use at the electronics (Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery Kit) and robotics (Vex Robotics Kit) seminars.
  • Send the detailed plan for each subtopic to the STEM teachers.
  • Run the seminar at the selected school as an after-school workshop for 90 minutes (30 min per STEM topic).
  • Update our school administrators, the selected school's administrators, and parents with details about the seminar
  • Submit a reflection to Peace First about how our grant money was used

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

The teaching and learning environment at Mitchell Elementary was a completely new experience for our group. It gave us insight into the injustice plaguing schools like Mitchell. Technology was limited and outdated, the building was old and cramped relative to the number of students attending it, and a few students had a harder time focusing on the activities whether this was due to indifference or external distractions. This new insight garners newfound empathy for students learning in these environments as well as teachers combatting the underfunded school curriculum and distracted students. With this in mind, we will continue efforts to improve the conditions at Mitchell Elementary and schools like it.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

The STEM seminar had a lasting effect on Mitchell Elementary students and curriculum. The website created for the coding seminar was given as an opportunity for students to try coding activities on their own, and following the event the website has been visited by over forty unique visitors, staggering relative to its initial number of zero visitors. The Snap Circuits and Vex Robotic Kits we introduced to teachers and students were donated to Mitchell so that they could be implemented into class activities in the future. Thus, in terms of having an impact on STEM learning in Mitchell Elementary, our group succeeded.

How many people were impacted by your project?

60

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

Our project directly impacted around sixty people. Over fifty students attended the event after only fifteen registered. Besides the students, we have influenced around seven teachers and administrators both at the Unionville district and Mitchell elementary. Our seminars provided new STEM tools and methods of learning as well as set a basis for the teachers who supervised the event to build off. By donating the STEM devices, we have directly impacted class curriculum, steering it towards hands on approaches in several science fields. In our own school district, we have strengthened ties between the Unionville schools and Mitchell Elementary.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

By communicating with administration at Mitchell Elementary School, we were able to understand the limited opportunities students in low-income areas have. We were also able to discuss current opportunities for students in the school with the STEM administrator for the district. We further understood their situation when we interacted with the students.

What did your team learn?

We learned ways to engage students to teach them various aspects of STEM. We also learned ways to encourage students to collaborate. We also learned how to provide engaging content and keep students focused despite limited resources.

What challenges did your team overcome?

We were expecting around 15 students to partake in the activity, based on the information we were provided in advance by the school. However, over fifty students signed up and participated in the STEM seminars. The robotics and electronics seminars were created for about 5 students to work at a time. However, we re-organized the seminars to ensure all students could learn and enjoy the activities we had planned by making the groups larger and splitting up the students into three rotating groups for coding, electronics, and robotics.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

To carry out and expand this project, we involved 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 Mitchell Elementary, as well as three STEM teachers from their school. They all attended the seminar to ensure that students can use the resources we donated in the future and the coding website we created, such as during recess, in class, or after school.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Our advice to someone starting a peacemaking project would be to contact people that are in your direct community to help build connections with those outside your community. When we first started the project, we were unable to get a response from schools because we attempted to contact them directly, which was much more difficult as unknown high school students. 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 that was just as passionate about STEM as we are. It is important to consider asking for help from those who have similar interests and connections before you can make a difference directly.

Our Updates:

STEM Seminar Photos--Mitchell Elementary, 5/22/18

Mira Z. 31 May 2018 20:25 Attached are photos from the coding, electronics, and robotics seminars we held. 

Coding Website Link

Mira Z. 31 May 2018 20:36 https://k-8stemlearning.weebly.com/

Attached is the link to the website we created to guide the students through the coding portion of the seminar. 

Comments:

Dalton B.
6 June 2018 9:27

Hi STEM Seminars!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

What really impressed me with your work was your flexibility! It sounds like you all prepared really well for your workshop and were then thrown a (good!) curveball of having too many participants. Your ability to shift your plans to accommodate everyone is really impressive and really embodies the peacemaking way.

I'd love to hear more about how your understanding of the root causes of this inequality in STEM education grew - why is it this way? And how is your project actively fighting against the root cause?

Finally, your advice to fellow peacemakers is really powerful - connecting to the communities you aim to serve is so essential but can easily be overlooked. This, again, really embodies our approach to peacemaking!

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!

-Dalton  

Fish S. Peace First Staff
1 May 2018 13:55

Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths:
Mira, this is an awesome project. You've put so much thought into it! Here are a few things I love:

-First, I love that you plan on working with administrators to investigate the root causes of this lack of access. You're so right to do this - offering STEM education is great, but figuring out why STEM education isn't being offered in the first place will help you make systemic change.
-Second, I love your thoughtful, specific learning goals for the project. Way to plan! Those will be helpful.
-Finally, I like that you're collaborating with lots of folks - thanks for finding ways to bring other people to the table!

Things to Consider:
Your plan is really strong -- and I'd encourage you to think about a few things you can do to make it even stronger.

First, how are you going to use what you learn from administrators about the root cause of the problem to determine the next phase of your project?

Second, how are you going to involve the students you're serving in designing the workshops -- making sure what you're teaching aligns with what they want to learn (and doesn't repeat what they already know)? And how will you collect feedback from them?

You don't need to have the answers to these questions right away - your project is awesome without them - but that's how you'll take it to the next level.

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!
 

Adrian B. Peace First Staff
5 April 2018 13:02

Hi Mira,


We wanted to let you know that we are extending the deadline for active projects to apply for a Mini-Grant during this Peace First Challenge to April 15th. You can apply for a mini-grant anytime, but meeting the Challenge deadlines will make you eligible for additional opportunities.

If you do not require a mini-grant to complete your project, you can remain eligible for the Accelerator by completing your project and Reflection before the May 31st deadline! If you submit your project plan by April 15th, we'll be sure to provide you with feedback by April 21st to support you with carrying out the plan.

If you are still in early stages of planning, you are also welcome to apply for a mini-grant at a later date -- although you may not be eligible for an Accelerator, the opportunity for funding and support is always there.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and if we can support your project in any way! :)

Best,
Adrian  

Adrian B. Peace First Staff
28 March 2018 18:43

Hi Mira,

We're excited to hear more about your ideas to address this important injustice! I wanted to let you know about an opportunity -- if you are interested in getting some funding for materials that you need to carry out your project, you can apply for mini-grant of up to $250.

The deadline to submit your Project Plan and Mini-Grant Application is March 31st if you want to remain eligible to apply to attend a Peace First Accelerator.

As you craft your plan, be sure to consider the feedback we gave you on your compassionate insight, and check out our project planning tools for help turning your insight into a concrete action plan: https://www.peacefirst.org/plan-your-project

Then, through your dashboard you can make any changes you want to make to your "compassionate insight," record your plan in "Make a plan" and then "Apply for a mini-grant" for the materials you need.

Let us know if you have questions. We're looking forward to supporting your project!

Best,
Adrian  

Fish S. Peace First Staff
20 March 2018 10:21

Hi Mira!

Thanks so much for sharing this project! Your passion for STEM -- and making it accessible to everyone -- is infectuous. Under-representation of marginalized communities in the STEM fields is an important problem, and I'm glad you're taking action to address this injustice.

As part of the process of completing peacemaking projects, Peace First staff give formal feedback on important steps of your project. One of those steps is the compassionate insight.

I love the insight that you have here, and the project ideas you have! Your insight is almost ready to go! I especially like that you identify underfunding as a really serious root cause of the problem - have you thought about how your project might address that? I'm also curious if you have ideas about additional ways you can address underrepresentation in STEM fields. Visiting underprivileged students is a great place to start--are there other ways you can support them in going into STEM fields?

I think you identify some really important barriers that keep folks out of the STEM fields. Do you think there are additional reasons that there are barriers for marginalized people trying to access STEM fields? We encourage people at this stage of their project to get to the root cause of what's happening--understanding root causes can make your end project even deeper and more effective.

It can be helpful to talk to people who experience this injustice, people who cause this injustice, and people who are already working to solve this injustice. While your insight is clear and logical as it stands, I would encourage you to do interviews with each of those groups--it will enrich your project in lots of ways! Here are some resources on how to do that: https://www.peacefirst.org/understand-through-compassion

I'd also encourage you to connect with other projects in the Peace First community which are working on these issues. Here are a few of them:

https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/kentucky-star-center-weather-balloon-experiment
https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/codergirls
https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/kentucky-star-center-weather-balloon-experiment
https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/advancing-adaptive-equity-oriented-pedagogy-stem-higher-education
https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/stem-seminars-underprivileged-schools
https://www.peacefirst.org/stories/stem-careers-show-narrowing-gender-gap
https://www.peacefirst.org/projects/gender-gap-between-men-and-women-stem-related-fields
https://www.peacefirst.org/questions/how-can-i-raise-awareness-and-encourage-young-women-join-stem-related-fields

And here are some articles that unpack this topic/other cool orgs workig o this issue:

http://www.transhack.org/
https://guides.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/STEM
https://www.xojane.com/issues/disabled-people-in-science-technology-math-engineering-fields
http://www.matthewrcover.com/undocumented-in-stem
https://phys.org/news/2018-01-women-men-stem-odds-workplace.html

I hope this is useful! Please let us know how we can support this important work. Thanks again, and I'm excited to see where this project goes!

Best,
Fish
 

Fish S. Peace First Staff
31 December 2017 21:41

Mira, sounds amazing! The STEM gap is real and important, and I'm glad you're raising your hand to take action. Do you need help developing these workshops? Is there anything else we can support you with?