1. Natasha Smith-Walker
  2. Executive Director
  3. Project SYSTEMIC
  4. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  5. Project Exploration
  1. Dean Grosshandler
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/dean-grosshandler-73752b3/
  3. STEM Education Research Assistant Professor
  4. Project SYSTEMIC
  5. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  6. University of Illinois at Chicago
  1. Jameela Jafri
  2. Project Director
  3. Project SYSTEMIC
  4. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  5. Project Exploration
  1. Liz Lehman
  2. School Development Manager
  3. Project SYSTEMIC
  4. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  5. University of Chicago
  1. Amy Pratt
  2. Assistant Dean
  3. Project SYSTEMIC
  4. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  5. Northwestern University
  1. Pamela Sydelko
  2. President
  3. Project SYSTEMIC
  4. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  5. Fat Node Consulting
  1. Rebecca Teasdale
  2. Senior Evaluation and Research Associate
  3. Project SYSTEMIC
  4. http://www.projectexploration.org/project-systemic/
  5. Garibay Group
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Amy Pratt

    Amy Pratt

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 07:20 a.m.

    We hope you enjoy learning about our project - Project SYSTEMIC - that is working to broaden STEM learning by building a learning ecosystem in the Chicago community of Austin. We plan to spread our learning and promising practices from this project throughout Chicago and beyond!

     
    3
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jen Lewin
    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 09:53 a.m.

    Thank you for taking the time to watch our video! Through our project, which is in the formative stages, we are modeling how systems-thinking methodologies can be used to engage community members in understanding and systemically responding to the STEM learning challenges faced by local youth. The project builds on our expertise in community engagement and partnership development to promote STEM learning for underrepresented youth. 

    The project will be of particular interest to those who are seeking to:

    • Give community members an active voice in developing STEM learning opportunities.
    • Build upon the existing assets and resources in a community, including local organizations, networks, and schools.
    • Respond to the systemic challenges faced by youth from communities historically underrepresented in the sciences.

    For more information, please visit us at www.projectexploration.org

     

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jen Lewin
    Jameela Jafri
  • Icon for: Pamela Sydelko

    Pamela Sydelko

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

    We are really excited about sharing our Systemic Intervention approach to empowering the Westside Chicago Neighborhood of Austin to improve STEM education for all students. Using Systems Thinking methods such as Problem Structuring Methods, Boundary Critique, and the Viable Systems Model and engaging a broad group of community Valueholders, this project's goal is to empower Austin to systemically define their own STEM problem, create structured dialog around conflicting perspectives, and design their own community-wide systems response that can adapt and endure as the STEM ecosystem changes over time.  While the STEM problems may be different in other communities, the systems thinking methods we are using and testing in Austin should be quite transferrable to other communities dealing with improving STEM learning for those that are marginalized and underrepresented.

     

    Reference:  Midgley, G. 2000. Systemic intervention: Springer.

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
    Jameela Jafri
  • Icon for: Jameela Jafri

    Jameela Jafri

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 01:22 p.m.

    One of the most interesting things about this project is how it authentically engages community members in voicing, identifying, and documenting the systemic challenges that young people have to navigate in order to pursue their natural curiosity and interests in STEM. We launched the project this year with 19 problem-structuring sessions, each with community members representing a certain perspective, such as public safety, business, educators, middle school youth, and others. The community, collectively, has a lot to say about challenges to broadening participation and systems-thinking methodology provides us a structure for supporting these conversations. Since we first documenting what already exists in the STEM learning ecosystem, according to the perspective of community stakeholders, we are also intentionally using an asset-based approach that acknowledges and validates the incredible work already happening in the neighborhood, with the goal of building upon these assets.

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jen Lewin
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Barbara Berns

    Barbara Berns

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 01:48 p.m.

    Very interesting approach. To make it more concrete, would it be possible to provide us with a brief description of some of the issues that were identified by particular groups as part of the process (respecting confidentiality, of course)?

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Pamela Sydelko

    Pamela Sydelko

    Researcher
    May 14, 2018 | 02:52 p.m.

    We have just completed 19 Problem Structuring Sessions with around 110 community members participating.  We are now creating system maps for each stakeholder group, so don't have concrete things to share yet.  I can give some examples of what we observed during the session related to what system elements and relationships different groups valued.  For instance, middle school students highly value making STEM fun,  recognize the the relationship between stereotypes and their own self-motivation.  Early Childhood Providers emphasize that a child's social and emotional health and early childhood literacy were intricately tied to kindergarten readiness which they believe to be a key component of successful STEM learning.  Parents valued Community STEM programs, community safety, and the STEM curriculum, but noted that a strong relationship between the community and the schools and between parent/guardians and teachers is necessary. And civic leaders valued funding for capital investments and STEM programming and linked the students buy-in to increased parental involvement.    As we process these maps, we will see STEM system elements that are valued highly by all, but we will also see conflicting views of what is driving the system among stakeholders.  Or next community engagement will be to reconcile a merged cross-stakeholder system map, encourage dialog around conflicts, and ultimately create a common community understanding of the problem. It is only when we have this common systemic understanding that we can engage the community in identifying systemic interventions.

     
    3
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Courtney Tanenbaum
    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Lisa Lynn

    Lisa Lynn

    Researcher
    May 14, 2018 | 06:18 p.m.

    This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing some examples.

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • May 14, 2018 | 02:00 p.m.

    This is such an exciting project! Can you talk more about how you are getting students involved?

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 02:38 p.m.

    Thank you!  There are three high schools in Chicago's Austin community along with seven elementary schools.  So in regards to the students that participated in the sessions for Project SYSTEMIC we worked with school principals and support staff directly to recruit students.

    In terms of the out of school time programs Project Exploration offers, we partner with local community-based organizations that have connections with schools/communities we serve.  Staff attend various meetings at schools to recruit students, we work with teachers to help identify students that could benefit from our programs and in our high school programs we work with the largest high school after school program provider in Chicago to recruit students.

    We provide single-gender programs for middle school students with a goal of developing interest, skill, and confidence while exposing students to a variety of STEM-related fields. Our high school programs tend to explore a single STEM discipline.  All programs incorporate best practices around hands-on, inquiry-based learning as well as creating personal connections.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
  • May 14, 2018 | 02:51 p.m.

    Thanks! So, how do students work with Project SYSTEMIC?

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Jameela Jafri

    Jameela Jafri

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 03:37 p.m.

    Hi Roxana! Because our project is about community-organizing, students have an important role in the systems-thinking sessions. To date, we have had three problem-structuring sessions with youth, resulting in a systemic map about the broadening participation challenge in the Austin neighborhood. When we bring all 19 maps together, students will have a critical role again, helping to define what the neighborhood's systems map for STEM learning is. From there, the goal is to community-organize and mobilize around interventions identified by the community (including youth) and pursue them. In other words, our project is about working with community, including youth, to first identify what the interventions could be, rather than coming in with a predetermined program or intervention. Once the map is finalized, our goal is for young people to share within their networks and existing meetings, to present the challenges they face in accessing equitable STEM learning opportunities.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • May 14, 2018 | 03:57 p.m.

    Fantastic! I'm so excited to see where you all go with this.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 03:02 p.m.

    Project SYSTEMIC is our NSF project that is looking specifically at the Austin neighborhood in Chicago and posing the question around what challenges or barriers are present that limit engagement in STEM.  We convened 19 Austin stakeholder groups of which we had two middle school groups and two high school groups.  These students were identified by their principals, counselors and in one case a community-based organization partner.

  • Icon for: Barbara Berns

    Barbara Berns

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 03:12 p.m.

    Thanks for the response to my comments earlier today. It will be fascinating to see what you learn when you merge the cross-sector maps. This is a clear and compressive way to gather important stakeholder data. 

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
    Jameela Jafri
  • Icon for: Lisa Lynn

    Lisa Lynn

    Researcher
    May 14, 2018 | 06:22 p.m.

    Jameela, I want to highlight a comment you made in the video that outsider interventions are often not sustainable. This is such an important point! To me it means that when the community has ownership, the community can do more with a program (and sustain it longer, and help it evolve) than an outside organization would be able to do without community partnership. I'd be interested to hear more of your thoughts on this point and how you're thinking about sustainability at this stage in your project.

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 08:41 a.m.

    Hi Lisa,

    There a couple things that we are looking at as it relates to sustainability. This work began almost a year in advance of our NSF project. We began laying groundwork to become embedded in the community and connected to education  strategies led by the community, e.g Austin Community Action Council. We also have been supporting the infusion of STEM related opportunities to the community by leveraging our partnerships, e.g Northwestern host their annual STEM Summit at Michele Clark. We are also developing a place based strategy in partnership with CPS by taking an underutilized building and developing a west side STEM Learning center. Programming is being influenced by what we are gathering from both parents and educators in the community. But ultimately when we get to the “intervention” stage of our project that will inform our work and how we will work to build opportunities from within. As you know not easy work!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
  • Icon for: Courtney Tanenbaum

    Courtney Tanenbaum

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 08:46 a.m.

    This is an innovative and exciting approach to broadening participation in STEM learning and community problem solving. Too often, as you note, there is a focus on "fixing" the student or "fixing" the community, rather than giving students and communities the voices they need to share their perspectives and experiences and to identify the root causes of and develop innovative solutions to the challenges they believe are most critical to address. I'm curious to learn more about how you recruited community organizations and leaders into this work. Was that a challenge? How did you build their interest and trust in your project? Do you see the relationships you've cultivated continuing beyond the life of the grant?

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 08:06 p.m.

    Great questions Courtney!

    Project Exploration has been delivering STEM programs for about 20 years, and five years ago we began to look at the STEM landscape in the out of school time in Chicago through a survey.  The data was presented to local and national stakeholders to start to make sense of the data.  A report was produced and can be found here. It outlined eight over-arching recommendations, which led us to think about a strategic method of creating a localized approach to developing a STEM learning ecosystem. 

    For the past two years, we have been focused in Chicago's Austin neighborhood by becoming embedded within existing networks, councils, meetings and activities. We connected with several local community-based organizations, schools/principals/teachers, and residents to cultivate relationships and promote STEM learning. We hosted a launch meeting December of 2016 with the stakeholders mentioned above and facilitated a pilot problem structuring method session January of 2017.  It was very well received and created significant buy-in with key community stakeholders. This pilot meeting initiated a couple targeted activities including providing daycare educators with PD, hosting a STEM Summit at a high school in Austin and obtaining an under-utilized school building to develop a STEM learning hub within the community.  It also helped us identify stakeholders willing to serve on a local STEM leadership board further creating a connection to the work.

    There were challenges along the way; connecting the work to formal STEM education, helping to communicate the value of STEM learning; capacity; fatigue - A LOT of meetings; resources to support early actions, to name a few.

    We do anticipate that this project will lead us to co-creating intervention strategies that are community-driven and sustainable.

    Hope this helps!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Courtney Tanenbaum
  • Icon for: Courtney Tanenbaum

    Courtney Tanenbaum

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 08:15 a.m.

    Very helpful! And, thank you for providing a link to the report. I look forward to reading it. It seems like collecting the landscape data -- and then sharing it with key stakeholders-- was a strong and effective way to start the conversation and set the tone for the work moving forward.

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 08:40 a.m.

    Yes it was. The links Amy Pratt is referencing below go into much more detail about where that work is going.

  • Icon for: Kelly Riedinger

    Kelly Riedinger

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2018 | 04:52 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your work with this video. I enjoyed hearing about how the project is empowering youth and community members as well as the application of systems thinking. Can you provide more details about the project evaluation and how it is integrated into the project and systems approach? Also, I am curious to learn more about measuring outcomes at the community-level. Thanks!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Rebecca Teasdale

    Rebecca Teasdale

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 05:26 p.m.

    Thanks for the your questions, Kelly. The evaluation is grounded in the same perspectives as the project, so we are taking a culturally-responsive and systems-informed approach.

    On the process side, the key questions focus on the ways in which and extent to which the project (a) is integrated into the neighborhood and builds on existing and networks; (b) brings a broad cross-section of stakeholders to the problem-solving table and engages them in ways that center community voice; and (c) adapts to emerging factors in the project and community that support and resist systems thinking and change.

     As far as project outcomes, the key questions look at the ways in which and extent to which the project (a) builds a holistic map of the STEM learning ecosystem and builds shared understanding of that ecosystem among stakeholders and (b) identify community-driven recommendations that have the strong potential to increase STEM participation among African American youth in the neighborhood. 

    Hope that answers your question!

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Jeremy Babendure

    Jeremy Babendure

    Executive Director
    May 15, 2018 | 06:39 p.m.

    Love your work Natasha!

     
    2
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • Icon for: Amy Pratt

    Amy Pratt

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 09:05 p.m.

    Such great questions and discussions!  We can't wait to learn from and share more with the entire INCLUDES community!  We are part of a Chicago-wide and national STEM ecosystem initiative to also learn from. http://stemecosystems.org/  and http://chicagostempathways.org/   Check them out!

     

     

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Natasha Smith-Walker
  • May 16, 2018 | 12:17 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your reflections and learnings to date and for undertaking this incredibly valuable and powerful work!  I am so excited to see that you are bringing together three approaches--mapping of STEM ecosystems, a complexity/systems thinking perspective, and culturally relevant (perhaps even culturally sustaining?) STEM pedagogy and engagement--that I hold near and dear as well.  I will be following this project closely from here on out and would love to connect offline to learn more about this and any other similar efforts you might be planning or undertaking.  In the meantime, could you share a bit more about any thinking/planning you've done to ensure that the recommendations emerging from your conversations with project participants not only increase STEM participation (which is certainly valuable), but also sustain, legitimize, and enrich the cultures and communities to which they belong?

    Thank you again!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jameela Jafri
  • Icon for: Jameela Jafri

    Jameela Jafri

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2018 | 05:14 p.m.

    Thank you for your comments and support, Chris. We've found systems thinking methodology the right fit for our grassroots work in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago because it allows us to truly legitimize and validate the perspectives and voices of the community. Now that we've wrapped up our community stakeholder mapping sessions, our next step will be to engage the community in reconciling the maps to generate a single systems map that is cross-sector. During this process, we expect the conversation, dialogue, and debate to reflect what is important to community members. What we have realized through the process is that the dialogue between community members about the STEM education learning landscape in the community is really important. So we are thinking a lot about how we will facilitate this conversation and use boundary critique methods to ensure that the conversation reflects the perspectives and voices of all community members. 

    Our hope with the project is to generate a model for how problem structuring methods can be used to engage community members in ways that dignify and validate their concerns, priorities and perspectives. When we scale this project and repeat the process in another neighborhood, for example, we expect that the "wicked problem" of broadening participation will be structured differently and, therefore, that the interventions identified by the community stakeholders in response to their systems map will be different. 

  • Icon for: Janessa Doucette

    Janessa Doucette

    K-12 Administrator
    May 18, 2018 | 12:54 p.m.

    I LOVE the community-based approach here! One question I have is: since this is primarily for African American students in Chicago, have you been working with Project Exploration's cofounder Paul Sereno, a paleontologist who specializes in African dinosaurs, to connect people who live near/work at his field sites with the students in Chicago in order to bridge those communities?

  • Icon for: Natasha Smith-Walker

    Natasha Smith-Walker

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 01:43 p.m.

    Thank you for your comment.  It is very gratifying to hear that you love our community-based approach!

    As you may know, we also work with minority students in other underserved Chicago communities besides Austin, often on a collaborative basis, but we have not worked with Dr. Sereno since 2012.

  • Small default profile

    Linda Kekelis

    Researcher
    May 20, 2018 | 05:48 p.m.

    It is really remarkable how Project Exploration has been around all these years, especially in light of all the new STEM programs starting up. I appreciate that your focus has been on quality of programming and not on scaling up for simply increasing numbers. I feel that your work around listening to students, involving families, and supporting programs that are built on what the community most wants and needs. This will contribute to the field and hopefully help other ecosystems understand how to take a community-based approach to their work. Do you anticipate much in the way of challenges of funding your work as you go forward since the outcomes aren't known at the beginning? Just wondering how you get across this approach to programming to funders and how you deal with evaluation.

  • Small default profile

    Tory Spenla

    Undergraduate Student
    May 21, 2018 | 07:10 p.m.

    This is a great way to approach STEM in such a small community based program within a large city. STEM is becoming so huge, and I look forward to what STEM holds in the future. Project Exploration is a great way to reach out to those who are underrepresented and marginalized. 

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.