SISTERS: Sustaining Interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research in Society
The SISTERS project reinforces the school curriculum through a theory-driven, after- school science and engineering education program for girls in grades 5 and 6 from low income communities. The girls are engaged in science and engineering lessons with technology-rich, hands-on experiences which foster critical thinking, and engineering practices. They discover and come to appreciate the iterative research process and learn the proper use of technological resources which builds their confidence in pursuing future STEM learning and careers. Each year, eight specially selected formal and informal educators from four schools in the Encinitas School district and eight female undergraduate engineering students from the University of California at San Diego lead twice-weekly after school science classes for about 100 girls focusing on solving socially relevant problems in solar energy and energy efficacy. Other activities include twice yearly field trips, twice yearly family science events, meetings with female professionals and a capstone team challenge project. A week-long professional development for the instructors and undergraduate students is offered for them to modify and use the lessons and to integrate environmental sensors. This project represents a strategic partnership between a nationally engaged research university and a local school district to create an innovative pilot program that can serve as a scalable and replicable model for others to follow.
The project studies how the interaction with role models and the use of socially relevant scientific and engineering challenges impact fifth and sixth grade girls' self-efficacy, STEM content and their interest in STEM Careers. The project intervenes at a critical time in student development of self-efficacy in STEM subjects. The students develop relationships with positive role models that foster a continued interest in science and mathematics and STEM careers.