STRATEGY & DESIGN
In the past few years, major progress has been made to empower youth to pursue STEM fields. Our work aims to provide an additional
delivery mechanism for some of the best resources available, while also promoting novel approaches to increase diversity across STEM fields.
We have carefully crafted an approach that we believe addresses the three critical stages of student success in STEM: Empowerment, Engagement, & Execution.
Often, resources focus on only a single stage. Many such resources are highly effective and focused, and we incorporate several into our toolkits. However, by providing an integrated program that supports both teachers and students in all three of these stages, we believe we can translate inspiration into action.
Check out our program's core components below.
1. psychology-driven strategies
increasing visibility of role models
Research has shown that kids' identities and behavior can be highly influenced by media messaging and perceived stereotypes about the groups that they are (and aren't) part of. Studies have also shown that this effect can be moderated by positive role models that counter stereotype threats. Connection to common challenges, shared group membership, and representation are powerful paths towards empowerment, so we're building a program designed to make sure every student believes that every student has a place in STEM. For students interested in science, we believe that this will provide footsteps they feel they can follow in. For students uninterested in STEM careers, we believe it will encourage them to see members of all groups as equally capable of excelling as thought leaders and scientists - which is no less critical to an equitable society.
Effecting serious change in the way scientists are perceived in our society requires a comprehensive overhaul. Developing demographically inclusive spaces is essential, but so is breaking the stereotypes of the types of people that can be successful in STEM fields. Our culture has come to often associate success in academic fields with specific personality traits and many students interested in athletics, socializing, music or fashion may feel that their hobbies make them the "wrong kind of person" for science. Further, creativity and scientific pursuits are often presented as at odds, perpetuated in part by the misconception about "left" versus "right" brains. When telling the stories of our featured scientists, we humanize them by emphasizing the characteristics, challenges, and idiosyncracies that make them just like everyone else.
2. collaborative design
blending INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES
We believe that high quality is the result of synthesis and iteration. We work with experts in diversity and empowerment strategy, K-12 education, science communication, sociology, psychology, and visual design to deliver an intentional and balanced program. We also believe that the best programs are built to evolve and adapt, so we continue to present our choices to our advisors and fold in their feedback until we get it right.
PROVIDING CENTRALIZED RESOURCES
There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. For years, many other organizations have been producing effective, powerful content in service of a similar mission. We are leveraging our program to also spotlight the best of prior efforts. By providing teachers and students with a catalog of curated supplementary resources, we both spread the excellent work of our peers and encourage ongoing education for our learners.
3. ACCESSIBLE, inclusive CONTENT
INTEGRATING PEDAGOGICAL THEORY
The best theories, when taught poorly, are unlikely to be successful. We're incorporating best practices from cutting-edge educational research to craft lesson plans that resonate with learners. This means creating disequilibrium, activating students as critical agents in their own learning, providing opportunities for students to teach each other, creative problem solving, and effective assessment. By building a program based on empirically-informed pedagogical strategies, we can ensure that the delivery is as powerful as the content.
LEVERAGING MULTIPLE MODALITIES
Though little research supports the validity of individual "learning styles", there is ample evidence that teaching across modalities is beneficial for every student. Because of this, our toolkits provide activities that engage learners visually, give them hands-on activities they can touch, share reading materials, and provide presentations for brief lectures. The goal is to encourage teachers to reinforce the campaign's message in multiple ways so that students leave the classroom with clarity and conviction.
4. practical classroom implementation
Many existing high quality resources live online or require extracurricular field trips. This means that in order for students to access them, they must either be part of an already-engaged community or have a teacher who has both come across the materials and taken the time to build a lesson plan around them. These two limitations of prior efforts inspired us to bring the content directly to the classroom. By developing and delivering clear implementation strategies and materials directly to classroom teachers, we're making it easy for them to make the most of these tools.
feasible lesson plans
Our "Scientist-of-the-Month" approach was co-developed by a committee of educators with classroom teaching experience. They wanted to create a program that they would actually have the time to use, that would make their jobs easier, and that students wouldn't get bored with. By rotating the scientist from month to month it keeps the energy fresh and student's attention on the message year-round. By providing multiple lesson plan options with supplementary materials it allows teachers to choose the level of effort that they want to put in each month. Our program won't work for students unless it works for teachers first.
5. Usable knowledge & support
providing insider's tools & tips
What is peer-review? Why do these scientists keep saying they were wrong? How can science be wrong? Are all researchers professors? Are scientists always busy? Do scientists make a lot of money? Is it expensive to get your PhD? Many students never learn the answers to these questions. Misconceptions about the cost of pursuing a PhD can give low-SES students doubts. Believing there is only one career path in STEM can discourage students who might make incredible journal editors, policymakers, industry researchers, or business founders. With the growing options and applications available, it's important to make sure every student is familiar with the landscape, so they can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue it.
outlining steps towards success
Once a student becomes excited about a particular researcher's work and decides they want to give science a try, where do they go? Well, if you don't have people in your community who know the answers, it can be challenging to get the edge you need to keep up in such a competitive market - making it even easier to feel discouraged when challenges arise. We collect and summarize the most important need-to-knows about the logistics that go into being part of a STEM field, from joining a research lab to understanding the day-to-day life, to clarifying career options and the graduate degree system. We make sure that a lack of knowledge of the next steps doesn't get in the way of any child's STEM ambitions.