Mission & Goals

 

Not every student wants or needs to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). However - should they choose to - demographics, interests, personality, and socio-economic status should never get in their way. We're building classroom tools to make STEM careers technically and psychologically accessible to all students.

 
 

americans who earned physics doctorates in 30 years (1973-2012)

Source: United States National Science Foundation

In the 30 years between 1973 and 2012, 66 black American women earned a PhD in Physics, compared with 22,172 white American men. 

This is jThis is just one of countless statistics across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields demonstrating the lack of proportional representation across race and gender. 

But the lack of diversity doesn't stop there. In addition to perpetuating stereotypes about scientists being white males in lab coats, pop culture continues to paint a picture of scientists as one-dimensional, socially awkward, and dull. This - along with historical mistreatment by STEM professionals, the lack of visible role models, unconscious biases, and peer pressure - contributes to fewer females and students of color pursuing STEM college degrees.

STEM is becoming an increasingly influential force in our personal, professional, and political lives. To ensure that society is shaped equitably by our country's best minds and ideas, it's critical that these fields reflect the multidimensionality and diversity of the American people. 

 
 

OBJECTIVES 

We are building and delivering free, multimedia toolkits to science classrooms nationwide.
These toolkits contain lesson plans, presentations, activities, and discussions to tackle three key objectives:

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ONE

Break the Stereotypes

Sheldon Cooper. Bill Nye. Albert Einstein. Jimmy Neutron. Doc Brown. Dexter. That guy from Jurassic Park.

When we asked kids to name any scientists they could think of - real or fictional - these are the names they came up with. Not only are real scientists rarely discussed in classrooms, but the fictional ones often follow a set of highly specific and limited characteristics.

The statistics suggest that we've created a feedback loop that's going to be hard to break. Role models matter. Media messaging matters. If kids don't have scientists that they connect to, identify with, or to look up to, they're less likely to see themselves following in their footsteps.

We know that diversity is more than skin deep. We share the stories of scientists who got their start as pastry chefs; failed musicians who followed their curiosity to neuroscience; people who struggle with reading; artists; marathon runners; performers; parents... all of whom followed a unique path to become successful researchers.

We tell the whole story, so kids can feel empowered to write their own.

 

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TWO

Share Real World Science

STEM is curiosity with a strategic plan, and we need to make sure that we're showing our students what it (and they) can do. 

Students can learn to fuse technology and piano-playing to better understand learning. They can build robots that can read your emotions. They can wear a lab coat and wield a pipette, wear scuba gear to study plastic toxins, wear work boots to uncover historical artifacts, or wear whatever they want and write the next line of code that will change the world. 

The increasing pressure on educators to produce competitive test scores can strip the fun from STEM and replace it with tedious memorization. The well-established theories that fill outdated textbooks can feel disconnected from everyday life.  

We provide teachers with easy-to-implement, customizable activities that bridge science and the real world. We develop multiple options so that any classroom can supplement the curriculum with hands-on experiments inspired by researchers they've come to know.

By sharing cutting-edge science, we're inspiring students to consider where their own curiosities might take them.

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THREE

Provide Practical Tools

Stories and science aren't enough. In order to encourage students across communities to consider fields in STEM, we have to equalize the playing field.

Many modern scientists came from families with researchers, communities with ample resources, and peer groups who are motivated to achieve academically. Some high school students begin working in research labs junior year. Those with college educated parents often discuss strategy and logistics. This creates an early edge for students with the right mentors and models, and little outreach work done to share this insider knowledge with everyone else.

We lay out the many meandering paths that our featured scientists took to get to where they are today. We slip in key nature of science skills and institutional knowledge so that technical details never interfere with a student's chance at success in STEM. We collect, curate, and freely share a digitized database of step-by-step guides, vocabulary lists, and honest breakdowns of what it truly takes to become a scientist in today's world. 

Science should not be a privilege reserved for the few, but a right that every student can access should they choose to. 

 

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.

OUR APPROACH

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.

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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.

Multi-dimensional Storytelling

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.

 

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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. 

 

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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.

Practical classroom implementation

Direct Delivery

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.

 

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USABLE KNOWLEDGE & SUPPORT

Providing Insiders’ 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.