Six Steps to STEM
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’sÂ Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD/PISA), when it comes to achievement in science, math, and overall studies, there are six factors associated with academic success among disadvantaged students worldwide:
– Confidence in science abilities
– Motivation to learn science
– Engagement in science activities outside the school
– An increase in the number of science courses students take
– An increase in the amount of time students spend learning
science at school
– Exposure to science-related careers
Coleman and Phillips have been able to apply each of these factors to their own organization. At Project SYNCERE (www.projectsyncere.org), where 100% of high school participants graduate and 90% of them enroll in a four-year university or college, students build robots, program video games, and design 3-D models of tablet computers and smartphones using a 3-D printer, among dozens of other activities. This year students are not only building solar panels to help power the classroom of a local school, but they are calculating the number of solar cells needed to replace traditional energy sources, determining the most efficient configuration to place the cells in, and then building the encasings for the solar panels.
Daniel Banks is an example of how Project SYNCERE helps students. Banks started his sophomore year at Perspectives Calumet High School with a 1.9 GPA. He was absent most of that year due to suspensions from fighting or disrespecting teachers.Â “I didn’t think I needed to go to school. I didn’t know anything about what I wanted to do and no one was pushing me to go to school,â€ says Banks.
It wasn’t until he participated in Project SYNCERE’s summer program that he began to gain confidence in his ability to succeed. He started attending classes more regularly, applied himself to physics class, began taking notes in all of his classes, and entered science competitions. He graduated with a 3.0 GPA and is now entering his sophomore year at Wartburg College in Iowa with hopes of becoming a civil or mechanical engineer.
Black students lack confidence for many reasons, but in some cases, they psyche themselves into believing stereotypes about which races are capable of being scientists and which aren’t, according to Kim Magloire, founder and president of SciTech Educational Solutions, a test prep and educational consulting firm that hosts a weekly summer camp, SciTech Kids (www.sci-techkids.com).Â Parents and teachers should expose black students to examples of successful black scientists; Magloire suggests that students will gain confidence in STEM once they realize that success in STEM has nothing to do with race.
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