Time Warner Cable (TWC) is committing to fund the development of a STEM-based writing workshop, in partnership with 826 National and the Coalition for Science After School (CSAS). 826 National is a network of eight nonprofit centers that work with more than 25,000 low-income students, ages 6-18, to improve their writing skills through a series of innovative programs. TWC will introduce 826 to CSAS, an existing TWC partner, to assist in developing the STEM aspects of the workshop curriculum. CSAS will identify existing 826 writing lessons that can be adapted to introduce STEM concepts. These may include Space Exploration for Beginners: What To Do When You Meet an Alien or There's Poetry in An Atom: Writing Creatively About Science. CSAS will pinpoint appropriate places to infuse props, live animals, science experiments and other hands-on STEM experiences within each of the lessons. The new curriculum, which will be designed as a three to four week workshop, will be piloted in the summer of 2012 at 826NYC, 826LA and 826 Valencia, in San Francisco, with 90 students participating.
Together, 826 and CSAS will recruit approximately 45 volunteers, a combination of professionals who work in STEM fields, as well as long-standing 826 tutors. Volunteers will participate in a training, during which the STEM professionals will be introduced to the Socratic tutoring methods 826 employs, and in Project-based learning theory, which underscores all 826 programs. Similarly, long-time 826 volunteers will learn basic principles for teaching science, which involve an inquiry-based model that encourages students to make mistakes, test hypotheses, and problem-solve.
In addition to serving as the convener of this effort, TWC will lend its expertise as a media and technology company, and its local resources in LA and New York City, to promote the pilot through media outreach, local news and local programming.
Work on this commitment is already underway, and will extend through the end of August. Milestones include:
May - July 2012
Develop training materials for non-STEM volunteers
Work with outside evaluation firm to develop evaluation pre- and post- survey to be given to the 90 students. The results of the survey will be used to strengthen the workshops for next year as well as inform us on how to use STEM concepts and modules to create additional STEM infused writing lessons.
Recruit and train STEM and non-STEM volunteers to facilitate the pilot workshops at three 826 centers
Recruit students to take part in workshops, with the goal of 30 students and 15 volunteers participating at each site. 826 will promote the opportunity to students who regularly attend 826 after-school tutoring, as well as to teachers at area public schools.
Conduct two pilot workshops at each site (to be held over 3 - 4 weeks)
Administer pre- and post-surveys
Compile and distribute survey results to stakeholder through a white paper that will be distributed to potential 826 funders, CGI STEM workgroup participants, teachers and other community-based organizations.
According to the United States Department of Labor, over 50 percent of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. are science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related, and yet, as a country, we are unprepared to meet this need. The U.S. is currently ranked 17th in science and 25th in math out of 33 developed countries, and students' interest in these subjects continues to decline. A 2009 Raytheon study found that 61% of middle-school students would rather take out the garbage than do their math homework. These attitudes put the US at risk of falling behind in an increasingly competitive global job market.
Though curriculum development and teacher training are key elements in the movement to address these deficiencies, STEM education, which takes place after-school in youth-centered environments, is a critical piece of the equation. According to the National Science Foundation, informal learning provides 'an experiential base and motivation for further activity and subsequent learning' (2006). Young people who participate in informal, after-school STEM education show a greater awareness of, and interest in, STEM careers. Young people need to interact with STEM professionals, they need to feel that they have the confidence of self-efficacy that they can succeed in STEM subjects, and they need to be engaged by STEM in creative and immediate ways.