Project Spotlight: Stem Career Clubs

Project Spotlight: Stem Career Clubs

Monday, August 10, 2015

STELAR had the opportunity to speak with Jason Painter (North Carolina State University) about the STEM Career Clubs project, an initiative which builds on a successful and research-based Strategic Teaming Model to increase the likelihood that participating students will pursue STEM majors and careers. The project is driven by three key objectives: 1) Facilitate students' and parents' identification with the STEM community by increasing their awareness of, interest in, and positive perceptions of STEM fields and careers; 2) Increase students' and teachers' STEM content knowledge and skills; and 3) Enhance the impact of the Strategic Teaming Model on leader, teacher, parent, & student perceptions of STEM Career Clubs innovation.

 *     Can you share how your ITEST project impacts youth?

 The STEM Career Clubs project impacts youth by establishing after-school STEM Career Clubs in isolated middle schools in rural NC. The youth in these clubs participate in engaging activities related to STEM careers that encourage students to enroll in high school mathematics and science, courses, attend college, and pursue STEM career paths. 

 *     What do you think is the most important learning in this area based on your project work to-date?

 The most important learning in this area related to STEM Career Clubs is overcoming barriers that impede the successful implementation of after school STEM clubs in rural schools. Barriers include transportation, scheduling, staffing, communication, recruitment, parent buy in, technology, and teacher training. This project is investigating solutions to overcoming these barriers and showing how these clubs can scale across districts and states.

 *     What is unique about your work?

This project is using a unique four-level Strategic Teaming Model (leadership, teacher-coaches, parents and students) to increase the likelihood of success for STEM Career Clubs. First, the Strategic Teaming Model engages teachers with administrators to make leadership decisions as collaborators. Second, uniquely understanding the needs of potential rural, first generation college students, the project extensively involves parents to support club goals, which includes inviting parents with their children to participate in university residential weekends. Third, each activity is directly linked to relevant STEM careers and/or research occurring at the university. Fourth, the University Team members bring together expertise that is atypical of a teacher professional development project: a robust team with expertise in leadership, teaching, STEM disciplines, educational psychology, out-of-school programs, and parent outreach. 

 *     Which STELAR/ITEST resources do you find most valuable?

We use many of the STELAR/ITEST resources and cannot single out one as most valuable. We've used the instruments and are planning on using some of the curricular materials for some of our STEM Career Club activities.