An Innovative Hybrid Program for Diversifying and Building Capacity in the STEM/ICT Workforce: ISTEM
Forty Native American and Hispanic 3rd - 8th students are engaged in a hands-on STEM/ICT mentoring program that includes flash STEM activities facilitated during lunch time combined with out-of-school field trip experiences.
This strategies project develops a program combining in-school mentoring with out of school informal education experiences involving the use of three types of mentors; college students, STEM professionals, and volunteers from the participant group community. The project targets Native American and Hispanic students in grades 3 - 8. The project recruits, trains and retains a minimum of 60 mentors during the 3 year project. Mentors from the three groups including members of the Pascua Yaqui Native American community and tribal members are paired with like numbers of mentees. The groups meet twice a month and engage in a minimum of 5 out of school informal science experiences during each year of the program. Program activities are guided by a culturally relevant theoretical framework, Funds of Knowledge, to determine the effectiveness of the combined effect of mentors from the three groups and the hybrid in-school and after school program. Funds of Knowledge provide mentors with theory and methods on how to identify, document, and build on the "hidden resources" found in the life-world of students to help them contextualize problems for ease of learning. Program activities are be based on four of fourteen grand challenges in engineering from the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Scholars; 1) Energy and Environment, 2) Health, 3) Security and 4) Learning and Computation. The program intends to determine the comparative effects of the three mentoring groups. They will attempt to determine which group of mentors, if any, are more effective in engaging mentees in STEM fields. The use of the "learning-together" model as a metaphor for family and community involvement through volunteer mentors from the target community is tested as a new approach to increasing effectiveness of the mentor model. The project also tests whether the model will increase the likelihood that minority engineering undergraduates who serve as mentors will persist and graduate. The project develops and provides structured technology intensive activities for mentors to use during their time with mentees at school that align with the informal out-of-school learning experiences. In addition, the program is aligned with each of the two participating schools science curriculum to assure continuity and mutual support of the activities.