NanoExperiences: Pathways to Workforce Success
NanoExperiences: Pathways to Workforce Success is an out-of-school program that supports high school students in Career and Technical Education to prepare for post secondary education in multiple STEM career pathways related to nanoscale science and technology (NS&T). The project builds on NS&T instructional materials developed and tested by Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL), and others, on professional development being developed by McREL and on recent recommendations for structuring academically-focused out-of-school programs. The one-year program combines academic learning of background information with additional supports. In the first spring 20 students and their parents in two schools are introduced to NS&T concepts, tools and instrumentation; NS&T related occupations; and societal implications. The five three hour sessions include large group meetings, presentations (both real and virtual) by workers in NS&T industries with teamwork projects between sessions. In the summer, students and their parents plan for and make on-site visits at industries using NS&T and plan for their final projects on an NS&T related career. In the fall, students plan the presentation on their project to be given in a symposium in November. The project will evaluate and refine the experiences to modify the program for the second year with 20 students in the same schools and 20 more students in two other schools. A NanoExperiences Toolkit developed and tested provides guidance for Colorado high schools to replicate the program with state partners including the Colorado Community College System. The project is designed around common features of Career and Technology Education programs and should be useful across the nation. The evaluation, done by an external evaluator, measures student participation and the impact on student learning, interest and presentation skills. The evaluation also investigates the collaborations with businesses, and the evidence for scalability to determine that NanoExperiences can serve as a national model. Data are collected through teacher, student and collaborator surveys and interviews, student assessments, and observations. The goal of the strategies project is to create a national model for developing an out-of-school time program to increase career and technical education students' interest and ability in STEM intensive careers.