Engagement in Practice: STEMEngagement through Mentoring
Less than 30% of students enrolled in the U.S. are proficient in science or mathematics. The landscape becomes more troubling among students who traditionally are underrepresented in STEM. For instance, in 2015, fourth grade Black students scored on average 24 points lower than their White counterparts, and 35 points lower than their Asian American counterparts. When data are disaggregated further by sex, underrepresented males, Black males in particular, underperform Black girls on fourth grade mathematics assessment. Additionally, underrepresented males who graduate from high school complete fewer math and science courses compared to their White and Asian peers, and are less likely to take ‘gatekeeper’ courses such as Pre-Calculus and Calculus.
As a way to help counteract the underrepresentation of underrepresented males in STEM, St. Elmo Brady STEM Academy (SEBA), an afterschool and Saturday program was developed to expose underrepresented fourth and fifth grade boys to unique, hands-on STEM experiences. What distinguishes SEBA from other afterschool STEM programs is the inclusion of the students’ fathers and underrepresented undergraduate student mentors. SEBA seeks to systematically expose students to STEM disciplines, STEM professionals, and STEM students with a strong focus on engineering and science competency and motivation. Informed by an Integrated STEM Framework, the project team seeks to investigate 1) In what ways do the fathers/mentors motivate students to become aware of and interested in STEM careers? 2) To what extent does involvement in SEBA shape the students’ and mentors’ STEM identity? Preliminary data suggest a correlation between the number of mentor contact hours and student STEM identity and a positive value added as a result of father interaction. The success of this program hinges on its ability to bridge the gap between universities and the community. There are plans in place to grow the program by expanding to additional schools.