1. Jan Mokros
  2. https://mmsa.org/2016/09/jan-mokros/
  3. Senior Research Scientist
  4. STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities
  5. https://mmsa.org/projects/stem-guides/
  6. Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance
  1. Sue Allen
  2. https://mmsa.org/2016/09/sue-allen-ph-d/
  3. Senior Research Scientist
  4. STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities
  5. https://mmsa.org/projects/stem-guides/
  6. Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance
  1. Jennifer Atkinson
  2. https://mmsa.org/2016/09/jennifer-atkinson/
  3. Project Manager, STEM Guides
  4. STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities
  5. https://mmsa.org/projects/stem-guides/
  6. Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance
  1. Scott Byrd
  2. https://mmsa.org/2017/01/scott-byrd-ph-d/
  3. Research Coordinator
  4. STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities
  5. https://mmsa.org/projects/stem-guides/
  6. Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance
  1. Sandy Copel-Parsons
  2. 4-H Community Education Assistant/STEM Guide
  3. STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities
  4. https://mmsa.org/projects/stem-guides/
  5. University of Maine Cooperative Extension: 4-H
  1. Kyle Winslow
  2. STEM Guide
  3. STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities
  4. https://mmsa.org/projects/stem-guides/
  5. Axiom Education & Training Center
Facilitators’
Choice
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2018 | 08:04 p.m.

    Thanks for checking out our video about the STEM Guides Project. We are in our fifth and final year of implementing and studying this concept for connecting youth in rural areas to existing out-of-school STEM. 

    We would love to chat with you about any aspect of the program - from how it is implemented to how we conduct research. 

    And we'd really enjoy hearing about how you link students to out-of-school opportunities; your experiences with "brokering" (either how it has affected your career or how you practice it yourself or just what you've been trying); your efforts to catalyze new STEM partnerships and leverage existing assets in the communities you serve or study; or just how you help youth form STEM trajectories outside-of-school. 

    Over the years we've worked in five study sites, or STEM Hubs, in Maine. This video highlights work in our Downeast STEM Hub in Washington County. Here we work closely with Axiom Education & Training Center and the Washington County 4-H program, which is part of Cooperative Extension at the University of Maine, in addition to a number of other organizations like the EdGE afterschool program at the Maine Seacoast Mission, University of Maine at Machias, local elementary and highschools, local libraries (as well as the Maine State Library), the Downeast Institute, Sunrise Economic Development Council, Washington County Council of Governments and more. 

    Its a beautiful place with many challenges and opportunities and it has been a wonderful experience to test our innovation here. Partners will also be online to answer question, so feel free to direct your conversation to the project team at MMSA or in Washington County. 

     
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    Sandy Copel-Parsons
  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 08:21 a.m.

    One thing we've learned in our work in rural Maine is that boys are at risk, are dropping out of school more often than girls, and enter college at a much lower rate than girls. The idea that boys are an under-represented group in STEM is counterintuitive, but it is real.

    Anyone else have similar issues with boys?  We'd love to hear about them!

     
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    Linda Stone
    Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker
    Sandy Copel-Parsons
  • Icon for: Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker

    Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2018 | 06:37 a.m.

    Good Morning Jan, 

         I am a science teacher at Washington Academy and STEM/SPIN Club/4H teacher through the guide program. I work with Sandy Copel-Parsons. I just submitted a paper in regards to the shift in representation and the effect it is having on our young men. The focus for so long now has been to encourage young women into the field in order to create equity. Now what I see is  that our young men are suffering. Washington County is full of bright, energetic students with that great "Down East" ingenuity and attitude. What our are needs are programs to continue to cultivate and foster these young minds. I teach Integrated Science and host STEM/SPIN clubs after school a few times a year. I have found, more often than not, that most students entering high school (both male and female) have had extremely limited experiences in the field of science and technology. I spend nine weeks in this course bringing them all up to speed and getting their love of science re-ignited. I have two teams attending Kleinschmidt Wind Challenge on Friday and I'm happy to say we are well represented with both a boys and girls team. Next week I am taking them to Jackson Lab. Showing the students what opportunities are available to them beyond Washington County is critical. 

  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 08:40 a.m.

    Hi Dawn, and thanks for writing!  First, you're absolutely right about finding more opportunities beyond Washington County, and Jackson Lab is a great one, because kids get to see a major institution with many exciting labs.  Another thing we did on the project was develop a resource bank on STEM for all of Maine.  https://mmsa.org/stem-resource-bank/.  The Connectory has developed a similar one nationwide, and includes many virtual opportunities.  

    Second, the issue about involving *boys* is very real, at least in our area.  About 70-75% of students in small public universities like UMaine Machias are women, and boys are less likely to consider going to college.  As you know, it's partly that they see the short term Big Money in fishing, but that's as tenuous a career as professional sports.  I wonder what you've done to convince more of your high school boys that college is an important next step?

  • Icon for: Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker

    Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2018 | 10:32 a.m.

    Jan I couldn't agree with you more. My husband is a lobster/scallop fisherman and admits that we need to do more to encourage our youth to look into what college or tech schools have to offer. I believe that the sea is so ingrained in the DNA of these young men they feel it is almost their "duty" to continue to fish despite either wanting another career path or knowing that the fishing industry is not what it used to be.  

    What I try to do to encourage my boys to look into college is talking to them about ways they can educate themselves and return to the area (if they so wish) and help their community. I explain to them that education is a gift you give yourself, and no one can take that away from you. If you want to go to college and then be a fisherman...GREAT.. do it... but have the education to back you when times may get tough.  Getting them involved after school with the STEM/SPIN clubs and really just talking to them and finding out what their interests are and running with it from there. 

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    Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2018 | 01:10 p.m.

    Good Morning Jan, 

    I"m a science and STEM teacher at Washington Academy. I recently wrote a paper in regards to the shift in representation in STEM. I'm finding more and more young men at risk in our area. The focus for so long has been on the equity of STEM education for our girls that the boys are now suffering. I work with Sandy Parsons to try to facilitate as many after school SPIN clubs as possible. I also encourage my students to participate and explore opportunities outside of Washington County. This week I have two teams going to Kleinshmidt to compete in the Wind Challenge. The following week I am taking a group to Jackson Lab. My classroom is a very "hands-on" STEM based environment and students (male and female) who entered hating science, at least leave with a slightly better appreciation, if not a full on love for it. 

  • May 16, 2018 | 02:16 a.m.

    These issues have so many more layers and complexities than we think.  Thank you for bringing attention to this dynamic.  I don't know all the twists, but I do know the path forward involves finding ways for young women and men to see and to celebrate the beauty of STEM and to see its rigor and goodness to be a natural expectation of growing up and becoming an adult, living with STEM instead of avoiding it.  No matter how one addresses the causes, that must be part of the pathway out for a society that is repairing its gender-related crises in STEM participation.

     
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    Jennifer Atkinson
    Dawn Lamoureux-Crocker
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    Linda Kekelis

    Researcher
    May 14, 2018 | 11:01 a.m.

    There are so many take-aways from this program model. Thanks for sharing your work through this video. While your work makes a strong case for youth and families in rural communities, I can also see how other programs can learn from and use elements with youth in under-resourced communities. Having someone who knows them and their interests and potential, can help youth build upon an interest and move along a journey that helps them “connect the dots” to studies and career in STEM. I look forward to reading and learning more about your research and evaluation results. I especially am interested in your interviews with the youth and families on the program’s impact.

  • Icon for: Sue Allen

    Sue Allen

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 03:05 p.m.

    Thanks Linda! Yes, that's exactly the goal. 

    In terms of evaluation, it's been a big learning experience for us in terms of what's feasible methodologically in these communities. We tried surveys and phone interviews of various kinds, but found that it was surprisingly difficult to engage families to talk about the STEM connections they followed up on: Either they didn't respond to our requests to talk with them (even when encouraged by the STEM Guide) or those that were willing to talk to us seemed to have very little to say. We don't know if that's because they didn't follow up on connections very much, or didn't think of STEM opportunities as "everywhere" the way we do, or haven't had a chance to follow up on next steps that might only happen months or years later, or don't see themselves as providing their children with "STEM trajectories" as much as fun episodic learning experiences of all kinds, or ... (many possibilities!)  But the result was that those conversations tended to feel uncomfortable, whether we spoke with the youth or the parents or both, and we didn't want them to feel they'd failed in some way. So, after trying some variations, we dropped them as a systematic approach.

    On the plus side, we have been able to track the participation of individual youth in a number of STEM events in the communities, and we've captured many of the opportunistic connections and youth responses through regular interviews with the STEM Guides themselves. So our impacts are mostly through the lens of the Guides.

  • May 15, 2018 | 10:18 a.m.

    Hi Sue,

    So nice to see a video about your STEM Guide program! We have had similar experiences with interviews (particularly with kids) in the Synergies project. Some kids love to talk about their STEM experiences and some seem very uncomfortable. I wonder if parents would respond better in a focus group environment--strength in numbers?

  • Icon for: Sue Allen

    Sue Allen

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 05:39 p.m.

    Hi Nancy,

     

    Hi Nancy,

    Thanks for your comment and suggestion. Yes we tried focus groups too - in fact that's what we ended up with as a community default. Still, we found it hard to get people to come out to just a focus group (even with a meal and/or stipend) so we tried to make it short and tag it on the end of something else, like a STEM event in the Hub or a celebration to honor the STEM Guides at the end. And I still felt disappointed by our ability to get parents talking about the trajectories idea - maybe because it's such a different mindset for many people that they seem to default into "yes our kids really enjoyed the program(s)." 

    Hopefully your Synergies project will move the needle even further!

  • Icon for: Juan Sarmiento

    Juan Sarmiento

    Graduate Student
    May 14, 2018 | 12:36 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing the video! The model of shared knowledge and incubating seems to be super interesting. Could you tell us a little bit more of the processes of recruiting and upskilling Stem guides? Also, you mention that you are working towards developing an ecosystem... could you tell us a bit more on that?

    I'll also add that, in terms of intervention, there is much dialogue between your intervention and approach and the work we are doing at NYU in collaboration with CS for ALL and BOCES. Thanks again for sharing this!

  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 02:50 p.m.

    Thanks for your questions and it would be great to hear more about your project.  We strive to find STEM Guides who know about their communities, have worked with kids, and are interested in (but not necessarily expert in) STEM.  When they come on board, they need to learn about STEM resources in their communities, and most importantly--how and where to connect with kids and parents.  As we think about the ecosystem, we want STEM Guides to connect across multiple organizations/programs, which is a challenge because they usually represent one organization.  They may be used to thinking about connecting kids to the next program in *their* organization, and we encourage them to connect kids with other organizations' programs.  It's not disloyal to do this---it's essential for kids!

  • May 14, 2018 | 12:42 p.m.

    This project addresses many of the areas of rural life that are both refreshing to visit and difficult to structure into existing support for STEM.  My research grew from the results of the 4-H leadership and the concept of the "Guide" is an excellent bridge for the problems of isolation of opportunities for youth.  How are you integrating technology to aid your collaborations between the guides and also with participants?  

    We used media discussions to bridge distances and engage kids to value their location while contrasting with others of similar topical interests  in positive ways with moderators ensuring the differences in communications were supported and occasionally ignited to keep the stretch of time at a minimum.  Are you offering connective "tissue" ideas like this to have your participants remain engaged over time?    

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 02:59 p.m.

    Hi Betsy -  An important question, as online communications and online STEM activities are becoming increasingly important ways of bringing STEM learning to isolated youth and organizations. In this project we use technology in two significant ways. Part of our work with the STEM Guides is to foster peer to peer learning and interaction. Coming together as a group of professionals isn't always easy, but at times was necessary. This last year we have met more frequently using the Zoom platform, in part because the two Hubs we are working with are the farthest apart; one in the western mountains and one at Maine's far eastern edge. These are somewhat shorter meetings and focused on fewer topics than our day long, in person retreats. The Guides themselves also have been introducing a number of online STEM programs into their Hubs - whether it be the NASA 3D challenge, scratch programming in robotics clubs, Family Code nights - and they have utilized the plentiful "activity and program" materials online (e.g. Teen Science Cafes, howtosmile.org, Engineering if Everywhere, etc.). They don't tend to interact with the kids online, however, (other than follow-up communications) as we really stress the in person relationship building. I almost forgot - our STEM Guides also utilize the Maine STEM Resource Bank (powered by the Connectory) to help them find programs that may meet a particular family or student interest. MMSA current curates this searchable database of OST STEM opportunities. 

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 03:59 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this promising model, Jennifer, Jan and Sue. There's been a lot of talk about the need for brokers as connective tissue for STEM learning ecosystems, and the STEM Guides are a thoughtful mechanism for addressing it, one that seems uniquely appropriate for regions like Maine. Strategies for broadening participation in STEM in rural communities is an under-resourced area, and one that sometimes gets less attention, as Jan mentioned. Have any other states/regions expressed interest in trying out a similar approach?

     
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    Lesley Markham
  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 08:28 a.m.

    Hi Jamie, We're part of the STEM Funders' Ecosystem project, and there has been interest within that group.  However, almost all of the ecosystems are much bigger.  We're getting together a few people to talk about just these issues of "small scale rural" in the fall. 

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 08:53 a.m.

    Hi Jamie - I'm hoping that other states end of replying to your question directly.

    I can say, however, that I've spoken to several colleagues about their interest in the model. More often they express the need for youth and families to get connected to STEM opportunities, and then I share our model with them. (We are doing much more dissemination this year than in years past.) I also hear folks describe how an individual changed their life by stepping forward and "brokering" an opportunity for them. When I share how we are formalizing that role, they are intrigued and supportive. I've also heard about an electronic version (a kiosk of sorts) being piloted in Baltimore through Digital Harbors. It is not exactly the same focus (i.e. more on careers/internships than out-of-school), but the basic idea is related and intriguing as it has an AI twist. 

  • May 15, 2018 | 12:45 p.m.

    Jamie and Jan, 

     The STEM Ecosystem Community of Practice is an option that we as a CoP keep watching however, the requirement that they be situated at that non-profits or educational institutions apply.  Those operating in rural areas are hard pressed to fill this requirement with staff to coordinate beyond their own mission. 

      The structure of a Community of Practice into serving in this  human role is still a challenge.  We can attract funding for stipends, create community supported projects, however the type of expertise that a Guile must have...of balancing policies with resources is uniquely a perpetual one in natural resource rich locations.  This is where the grassroots meets top down in connecting STEM.

    The good news is  that communication technology can be  blind to gender, age and even generally location.  We have used online but are also now working with a Kiosk similar to Baltimore's within common buildings.   These will be able to solve the privacy issues also involved between institutional designs.   Looking for more top down interest in the platform to assist the human needs.  

  • Icon for: Kalie Sacco

    Kalie Sacco

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 05:50 p.m.

    Hi Betsy, I'm glad to hear that you are part of the STEM Ecosystem CoP. In interacting with that group, what challenges unique to the rural environment have you identified?

  • May 14, 2018 | 05:12 p.m.

    Jennifer, 

      Neat to hear that the blend is happening up from the relationships.  Our project continues to believe that element is the strength in rural locations that is hard to measure yet critical to sustainability.  We built in a 4th phase to our logic model to improve the vision of systems as improving and enlarging...but not exactly dropping anyone along the way.  Once our MSP was completed I changed roles from project manager to "coordinator" which sounds very similar to the Guide one in your system.  The participants also attracted me into formalizing the research with the digital tools.  All does seem to be a natural progression of positive projects.

    By having someone who bridges between the types of traditional groups like 4-H and scouts we hold on to critical resources while appreciating the youth with interests that cannot be integrated into small school systems. NH has new laws regarding the gaps in offerings and working out others.  Have you developed extended learning opportunities or other formal labels in your certification as youth progress?  

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 09:04 a.m.

    Hi Betsy - No we don't have any formal labels, as a badging system would. And it seems like no two kids really connect to new resources in the same way.  For some it is just a matter of introducing them to OST STEM for the first time. For others it may be finding a "next step" which could take many different forms based on their ability to access the opportunity or their interest in it. So it could be something they do at home, or another club, or a program at the library, or a summer camp. If anything, the paths seem very individual and somewhat unpredictable. 

    And yes, the Guides themselves do start up programming where there is a real gap. The idea is to jumpstart ideas in the community - and engage as many others as possible in making it happen. Also - as part of the project we require that Guides not invent their own activities or programs but use readily-available, well-vetted models. That way - the activities/programs are much easier to hand-off after our project ends. Junior Solar Sprint has been a popular choice among Guides that see the need to add an engineering competition into the mix. Another great program for teens that we've introduced to hubs is the Teen Science Cafe model. What is particularly great about his model is that it creates a way to engage community-based STEM professionals  - so kids can connect not to just a program but also to people in their community who are STEM professionals. 

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Informal Educator
    May 14, 2018 | 08:42 p.m.

    Hi Jan, Jennifer, Sue, and team - I appreciate your comments about the challenges of working in low population density areas that have unique resource configurations, both with respect to people as well as programs. I wonder: have you identified any longitudinal tracking strategies that might be used to follow youth through successive STEM experiences (maybe to continued education or employment choices)? Is this something the STEM Guides contribute to, or do they experience turnover? Thanks for a great video and description of your ongoing research.

     
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    Scott Byrd
  • Icon for: Sue Allen

    Sue Allen

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 09:23 p.m.

    Great question, Margaret. Our wish to track individuals, even just participants in the most popular STEM events and resources, has been a game-changer compared with the ease of strategies for counting aggregate or anonymous participation. For the Guides to do it from the provider-side has required not only sign-ins but sign-ins that are detailed enough for youth to be unambiguously identified - which has required significant human quality control at the sign-in point. We do this whenever possible but since many youth STEM experiences have no such system in place, we fall back on self-report with its limitations, and aggregated participation data. It makes me realize that one advantage of a badging system (which we didn't do for other reasons) is that it tracks an individual's trajectory through the anticipated experiences. At one stage we did ask the STEM Guides to keep activity logs of every connection they facilitated for every youth, by name, but the Guides found it extremely tedious particularly because they often talked with youth and families in small and dynamic groups, so they couldn't remember exactly who had been there when they'd suggested which next steps. 

  • Icon for: Kalie Sacco

    Kalie Sacco

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 05:55 p.m.

    Hi, Sue!

    Piggybacking on Margaret's question, I am wondering about the extent to which STEM Guides (or other adults involved in the program) create learning pathways for individual learners? That is, would a Guide be the person who connects a girl interested in robotics with a computer science camp located the next town over? Or, do they operate on more of an organizational level, helping to broker partnerships?

  • Icon for: Scott Byrd

    Scott Byrd

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 09:03 a.m.

    Hi Kalie and Margaret, 

    I am one of the researchers on the project and tracking and following pathways is something we have thought a lot about with few solutions that are not too invasive or, like Sue says, too tedious and complex. Yes, the guides both connect individual youth to opportunities and brokers partnerships between orgs ins service to the former objective.

    Many of the partnerships we work with are pre-exisitng in rural areas where there may be only a few orgs working with youth and informal STEM learning; but, the guides do seem to provide more connective tissue for these partnerships and organizations have seen the advantages of working together with the guides. 

    Tracking learners is a "wicked" problem as we would say in New England. But, the event sign-ins that we capture prove to be an interesting dataset where we can examine an individual's "path" through various activities and events. We are starting to look at how type of event (technology-focused or drop-in science activity) may have an affect on pathways over time--attending more events and program extant (duration of event, e.g. camp or science fair). 

    Tracking youth long-term is something beyond our project's capacity but would be a good future research project--several confounding issues I can think of around measuring dosage, ease of tracking related to background (income, race, etc.), and accounting for privacy issues. Luckily tracking STEM guides is much easier given they are adults, and the Maine informal STEM network is a "small-world network,"--we are still in contact with many of our former guides. 

  • Icon for: Maureen Callanan

    Maureen Callanan

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2018 | 01:27 a.m.

    This is such an interesting project!  It seems really powerful that the STEM Guides help to connect youth to a wider array of programs, but I can imagine that it must be challenging for them to get past the loyalty to their own organizations.  Can you say more about how/whether the project helps to build community among the group of STEM Guides themselves?

  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 07:53 a.m.

    You nailed it, Maureen!  And yes, I think there's some research on this "loyalty" issue within organizations! :)  Downeast Maine is small enough so that our Guides usually have worked (or are currently working) for more than one STEM-related organization, or their partner is employed by another STEM organization.  That keeps it a little more fluid, and certainly cross-fertilizes the organizational work.  For us, the problem has been more with the limited amount of funding and how it is distributed to organizations.  

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 08:44 a.m.

    Thanks Maureen. I think the challenge is more of a mindset that, once identified, can be expanded. In addition, Guides have to think creatively about what else is out there - sometimes its another institution or program but often it is something kids can do at home - either online or otherwise - and hopefully engage friends or family members. Guides also reach out to individual residents, STEM professionals in their community, to create new connections. And sometimes they help institutions to create opportunities - like an internship at the Fire Dept. The Guides also connect older youth to experiences elsewhere in the state - e.g. camps, research programs, etc. 

    But that's not what you asked! Yes we do encourage Guides from different Hubs to connect and share ideas, strategies, challenges. One way we've done that is through quarterly meetings of the Guides - face to face. These were very successful. We held them quarterly. We usually focused on one or two strategies that resonated with all of them so we could really dig in and have them work peer to peer. We also have topical meetings over "Zoom" - that are shorter in length but very effective. Again - the idea is to get them to share their experiences and advise each other. As the Project Manager - I also seed ideas from one Hub to another and put Guides in direct contact with each other when they are both trying to resolve a similar challenge. 

  • Icon for: Maureen Callanan

    Maureen Callanan

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2018 | 01:50 p.m.

    Thank you Jennifer!  Sounds like a great program!

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    Hannah Whitmire

    Undergraduate Student
    May 15, 2018 | 09:12 a.m.

    This project is really cool, I love that you are trying to connect with students who do not necessary have access to a lot of STEM activities, groups, projects, etc. I never thought about how STEM is implemented in such rural areas and I do think that these STEM Guides are a super creative and useful way to bring more STEM into rural areas. I love that the Guides are sharing ideas and strategies with one another. Do you send Guides to workshops and other STEM related programs to gain more insight and learn about new programs, opportunities, etc.?

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 04:31 p.m.

    Yes we do. We've been able to support their participation in local and national workshops as well as STEM conferences. We also encourage them to seek out webinars and some have taken advantage of online coaching for afterschool educators which MMSA offers through its ACRES project

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    Steve Krak

    May 15, 2018 | 10:44 a.m.

    Well done!  I'm a big fan of the STEM Guides approach for rural communities.  I think it has been overlooked because it is not necessarily a useful model for larger, more concentrated communities.  I think NSF is on to something here, and I hope it not only expands to other rural communities, but that it might be re-examined to see if the STEM Guide's scope of work might be tweaked to have an even larger impact on the ecosystem of education providers and families as a whole.  
    We will be sharing this model among our several rural communities that are part of the STEM Funders Network sponsored STEM Learning Ecosystems, of which Downeast Maine is a valuable member and contributor. 

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Steve Krak

     
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    Linda Stone
  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 04:33 p.m.

    Yes - looking forward to it. Although interestingly I think someone commented here that they see it as applicable to urban communities, which is really intriguing to me!

  • Icon for: Preeti Gupta

    Preeti Gupta

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 02:34 p.m.

    Wow, just finished reading all of the comments and my mind has a billion comments and questions. While the project is specifically about addressing issues in rural areas, I think there is so much overlap with issues in urban areas. While housing and amenities are tightly squeezed together in a place like NYC, there are great gaps in knowledge and community for so many chlldren. Segregation and allocation of resources are a real thing here. 

    1) The boys thing - that has come up and become a major issue that we are addressing across our programming as well. In particular, we are seeing a decline in participation from Black youth.

    2) The STEM Guides idea is so powerful. Do they get paid? It is a job that is about "built knowledge and experience". Have STEM guides continued in this role or has there been turnover? I am thinking about a similar idea here in NY, at least, just at the museum that I am in, and I am curious...how does one prepare an individual to be a STEM Guide?

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 04:54 p.m.

    Agree with many above that STEM Guides are such an innovative idea and wondering if we are seeing a new professional frontier in our field? So yes I'd also be further curious about their incentives and challenges.

  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 05:07 p.m.

    Well, STEM Guides could be a new profession!  It's interesting and innovative for these Guides, especially those who like working with kids.  Here are a few recommendations/things we learned:

    1) You need to pay Guides, and we are paying between $15 - $20 per hour.  At first, we thought it could be a volunteer role, but even retired professionals wanted the respect that comes with paid work.

    2) The professional development is a major draw for them:  They learn more about STEM in their communities, and with this knowledge comes respect from community members.  Getting them together to share strategies for connecting with kids/families is key! We often brought in community STEM people to talk with them, which was an important learning opportunity.

    3) One of the most challenging, but ultimately satisfying, tasks for STEM Guides was to use existing resources, which we called "STEM Gift Packages." A lot of folks wanted to create their own kits and resources, but when we showed them Teen Science Cafe Network,  Engineering Is Everywhere, and other great NSF resources, most of them got excited about these resources.  A critical piece is not reinventing the wheel with resources!

  • Icon for: Preeti Gupta

    Preeti Gupta

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 07:49 p.m.

    i am totally interested in this new profession!

    So $15-$20/hour could be thought of as a upper level college student job or a graduate student job. That is true for NYC but I don't know if those rates hold up around the country. Assuming they do...I think it is a great job for that cadre of people. It is a flexible schedule possibly..opportunity to develop a variety of workforce skills and explore career options. A person of that type would also be a near-peer to the children they are serving. I am excited! I actually want to try this as a very small scale experiment at the American Museum of Natural History where i work. Can I? Hmmm.

  • Icon for: Sue Allen

    Sue Allen

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 06:13 p.m.

    Hi Preeti, 

    Thanks for your enthusiastic interest! It'd be great to see how the idea translates to urban settings. 

    I do just want to say that being a STEM Guide isn't easy and isn't for everyone - we've learned that the most successful ones have many overlapping assets: they're community-embedded, credible and well-liked, currently connected with youth in some way, passionate about STEM, and informed about STEM opportunities (learnable), but also entrepreneurial and opportunistic in making connections where none existed. That can be tough for people who are shy, or just reluctant to intrude or put their social capital on the line. It's almost a type of community-organizing, to be pro-active building new synergies, both with youth and with local organizations. 

    Another potential limitation is the nature of the community in which they work. Sometimes the community organizations can be resistant to the fundamental idea of working together, and can even see themselves as competitors; in those cases, the STEM Guides can work very hard and feel they aren't getting very far. 

    Lastly, there's a big boot-strapping challenge: A big part of the frontier nature of the work is that it's based on a mindset of catalyzing connections (brokering) per se, and that's not the typical mindset in education. Typically the families expect the STEM Guides to provide STEM programs, and so do the Guides themselves at first, and the partner organizations and other stakeholders. It's such a dominant paradigm in out-of-school STEM investments: provide programs. The Guides feel that pressure all the time. And some of what they do is providing programs, but always trying to move beyond that to leveraging connections and helping youth take next-steps.

  • Icon for: Scott Byrd

    Scott Byrd

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 09:29 a.m.

    Hi Preeti,

    To follow up on what Jan outlined above; I think we could easily help you write the job ad and have already developed most of the training materials--of course, there would be some adjustments for NYC. Another skill that they develop is this idea of being able to broker partnerships as well as youth opportunities; essentially providing the connective tissue in a growing embedded network of opportunities.

    This idea of "brokering" that has been talked about above is an emerging skill that guides nurture, but is underdeveloped in the STEM education literature. Our hope is to put some meat on the bones here where we can isolate specific brokering "mechanisms" that help the guides understand their work and impact. 

  • May 17, 2018 | 02:47 p.m.

    What a fascinating project, and how rewarding it must be to see the work and results evolve over the past five years.  This personalized approach to connecting students with authentic "out-of-school" STEM experiences holds a lot of promise for ameliorating traditional in-school STEM pathways, which can feel much narrower for certain students and populations (especially those who don't see themselves as "college-bound" in this context alone).  I enjoyed reading through the comments and questions, and resonate with many of the challenges here re: rural schooling (of which I am a product and have seen first-hand the difference between boys and girls and college pathways) and data collection (very refreshing to hear your candid observations about the uncomfortable nature of interviews with parents and students, and the decision to follow the good data you ARE getting re: tracking student participation and interviewing your Guides).  Our own in-schools project is also heavily reliant on STEM facilitators (really, "guides" for teachers), and in its second iteration, we also pivoted to them as the lens through which we document and track progress with teachers, students and schools, letting some other things go.  This is a great reminder to lean into the data you have, as some of it simply occurs more naturally in the work we do.  THANK YOU for sharing.

     

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 04:11 p.m.

    Agreed - working with communities or schools to engage them in changes in practice and perspective is organic and fluid. Knowing what research methods are going to work best does have a real trial and error aspect!

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2018 | 08:44 a.m.

    Sue, Jan, Scott, wow. We all have so much to learn from you about the nuances and challenges of brokering, a term that is sometimes used too loosely when we talk about STEM learning ecosystems, e.g. At a recent workshop on supporting scientists who want to communicate CAISE learned that some informal STEM education institutions have hired community organizers on staff as a way of addressing the need for the social capital needed to do the work they aspire to.

     
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    Claire Pillsbury
  • Icon for: Lori Miraldi

    Lori Miraldi

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 18, 2018 | 10:42 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing your program. This is such a valuable population to reach. Being in central Pennsylvania (Penn State), we also have a large rural population. Right near Penn State, we have great STEM programs; However, further out, the resources in the schools are lacking. One way we are tackling this is through our Engineering Ambassadors Program. This is a group of students who do K-12 outreach. I see that some of your collaborators are from University of Maine. University of Maine has an Engineering Ambassadors Program that is part of our Engineering Ambassadors Network (see our video for more info: http://videohall.com/p/1266). The University of Maine Engineering Ambassadors may be a good group to collaborate with if you want to continue or expand your efforts in the area. I believe Sheila Pendse is the program advisor at the University. 

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2018 | 01:30 p.m.

    Good to know! For a number of year's MMSA also worked with IEEE on a similarly named program. It focused on professional engineers working with classrooms in southern, Maine. I've asked my colleague from MMSA to come online this weekend and say a bit more about it. 

  • Icon for: Lisa Lynn

    Lisa Lynn

    Researcher
    May 18, 2018 | 10:43 a.m.

    Great video and great project! I love that it's connecting the opportunities that already exist...and building a network for new ones to join.

    This is not my area of study, but it seems to me that in every community--urban, rural, suburban--there is an issue of disconnectedness. Over and over I hear people say they find out too late about events, programs, and resources in the community that they never knew about. It might be a different type of problem in different types of communities; in a rural community things are very spread out, but in an urban community things are so close together that it's easy to miss something that might be literally right next door.

    Anyway, I think STEM Guides sounds very promising and widely applicable. Thanks for sharing it here.

  • Icon for: Janessa Doucette

    Janessa Doucette

    K-12 Administrator
    May 18, 2018 | 01:06 p.m.

    This is a wonderful project and so refreshing to see. Here in Oklahoma we have many rural communities with limited bridges to meaningful STEM experiences, or at the very least, limited ways of connecting what they already know to more "formal" STEM concepts. I look forward to seeing the survey and focus group results! What does your team think about using an ethnographic approach to this kind of work?

  • Icon for: Margaret Cysewski

    Margaret Cysewski

    Graduate Student
    May 19, 2018 | 12:25 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this great project! I was wondering if the STEM Guides ever identify STEM topics that are important to the community but without existing education resources? 

  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 08:14 a.m.

    Oh, yes, that comes up a lot!  For example, there weren't many existing educational resources on emergency management (at least not for high school students.)  So we used an existing *structure* (Teen Science Cafes) and brought in local experts in EM to these Cafes.  We helped these (mostly) guys figure out how to highlight the STEM in their work.  

    We're constantly asking ourselves how we could use existing "STEM gift packages", especially in the cases where the resources exist but are not present in our rural areas!  We did bring in gift packages---we just didn't invent them.

  • May 21, 2018 | 08:56 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing that example.   Fire departments include a close tie with EMT's and are paid in urban locations, however largely volunteer in rural locations.  This is an interesting gap between rural and urban perceptions of a career.   I wonder if there are other careers that have that same gap.  Unions and apprenticeships generally start at 18 however that is changing with job shadowing...but even with the shadowing the public rural perception of this job would be different from the urban role.

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 19, 2018 | 01:22 p.m.

    Hi Margaret - Good question. Yes - the definitely do. They sometimes find that either there is a topical gap or sometimes that certain ages and locations aren't well served. Some parts of a Hub may have better physical or online access to OST opportunities than others. Sometimes we see elementary youth with better access than HS youth. And in some hubs certain topics are well covered - e.g. ecology, nature - but others pretty sparse - engineering or tech. So - in these instances Guides do step in to strategically fill gaps. When they do, however, they use what we call "gift packages" - or existing, high quality, vetted activities or programs like Engineering is Everywhere, NASA 3D printing challenge, Junior Solar Sprint, Teen Science Cafe, howtosmile.org, 4H or science museum kits, SCRATCH coding, etc. Their job is definitely not to create new activities, programs or materials. When they fill gaps in this way - they also use the opportunity to get to know kids and families so they can help them find "next steps" or other opportunities for OST STEM. Whenever possible the Guides also involve other community members and institutions so that they are in a position to hand-off what they've started. This last part is pretty tricky - and often takes more time and a different route than expected. One last thing - we've also found that by filling these gaps - that Guides are able to demonstrate their skills as an OST STEM educator. It sort of gives them "STEM creds" and helps build their "STEM Guide identity" within the community they are serving. 

  • May 20, 2018 | 12:36 p.m.

    You are doing great things for motivating young people to be interested in STEM fields!  I teach astronomy at UM and travel Downeast once or twice each Fall to give talks to Downeast Audubon and at the Pembroke Library.  They have invited me back every year since 1985  :)  I give talks on things astronomical and some of the children you are nurturing might find the talks interesting.

     
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    Sandy Copel-Parsons
    H Chad Lane
  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 20, 2018 | 07:59 p.m.

    This is great to know Neil! I also want to share with the guides you video on using minecraft to explore "what if"  questions about astronomical impacts on Earth . When possible the Guides do connect students to these kinds of opportunities - i.e. library talks and walks. I will be sure to have them lookout for you. 

     
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    Neil Comins
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    Katie E.

    Graduate Student
    May 20, 2018 | 01:40 p.m.

    Wow, you could have been talking about the district where I work now: we're in rural PA, not Maine, but the nearest anything is at least an hour away. We struggle to get kids involved in anything other than sports because a) the resources aren't there; b) the interest isn't always there; and c) the time isn't always there - our students and teachers are so involved in so many things that adding a focus just on STEM hasn't felt like a possibility. I love that you have ambassadors for STEM education who "keep their ear to the ground" and help facilitate inquiry-based STEM education projects and programs.

    I was also fascinated by your comment, Jan, that boys are underrepresented in STEM education and not entering college at the same rates as girls. I'm not sure that our percentages here are the same as they are in Washington County, Maine, but I think we are seeing a similar phenomenon. Ours seems to be because our boys go into more "right now" STEM careers - auto mechanics, carpentry, metal working, etc. They walk out of high school or the vocational school and into a job, forgoing a college degree. Our girls tend to not want that sort of career and instead pursue more rigorous education at a college level in order to further their STEM careers.

    I would be extremely interested to know the reason for this shift, as it's one I hadn't considered or even consciously realized until I read your comments on the video. Fascinating!

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Facilitator
    May 21, 2018 | 08:02 a.m.

    Jennifer- I love the idea of building a "STEM Guide Identity"! Congrats again on this rich work and we'll keep our ears to the ground for forthcoming findings from the focus groups and to hear about future directions.

  • Icon for: Jennifer Atkinson

    Jennifer Atkinson

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 04:01 p.m.

    Thanks Jamie!

  • Icon for: Jan Mokros

    Jan Mokros

    Lead Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 08:10 a.m.

    Thanks for writing, Katie.  It's interesting to know that you (and others) have some of the same problems with connecting kids.  And the "right now" STEM careers is a cool idea!  I think you're on the right track in terms of encouraging kids to do a first step (probably one that also pays well), and then they can take it from there.

    I wonder too about the reason for the gender shift.  There's some older research that shows that the more women-dominated a field becomes, the less it pays.  And the more males who enter, the more the pay goes up (as is currently the case for nurse practitioners). This is a correlation and we don't know the causes.

    I also wonder whether "perceived similarity" to others in college creates a dynamic that perpetuates a gender disparity.  If most of your classmates are women, perhaps it doesn't feel as comfortable for a man to be in that class.  Your comment is making me want to go back and look at the considerable amount of research on women's colleges, to see what we can glean from it.

     

  • May 21, 2018 | 08:33 a.m.

    The gender separation also has engaged my interest and been part of the research on fair access to “STEM Literacy”. This challenge begins before we have options to intervene...and well before technology integration.

    Physical differences in the eyes of males and females regarding how we see should be thought about as it relates to spatial differences.  Changes in black and white that are due to movement are more developed in males while cells that differentiate by color are more numerous in the female eye structure.  Females have gained by their joining into sports and other activities that build their multiple level view.  Good research can be found in Making Space, The Development of Spatial Representation and Reasoning (Newcombe and Huttenlocher)

  • Icon for: Claire Pillsbury

    Claire Pillsbury

    Informal Educator
    May 21, 2018 | 10:21 a.m.

    Thanks for creating this video and sharing your work -- what a terrific program in both providing direct service to youth and in developing a proof of concept for other rural communities.  Very inspiring!

  • Icon for: Sandy Copel-Parsons

    Sandy Copel-Parsons

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 11:09 a.m.

    Thank-you Claire!  Through my lens as a STEM guide, I have witnessed  direct connections ensuring that youth within our county have more than "one-shot" STEM experiences.  Connecting the dots between existing local events, libraries, after school programs, libraries, on- line resources and 4-H have helped create a sustainable STEM foundation here in DownEast Maine. 

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