The California STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) Service-Learning Initiative supports secondary school and higher education students working together to meet community needs through a STEM design process. They are guided by STEM industry advisors, secondary teachers and higher education faculty as they use the service-learning instructional method to deliver STEM related academic content and explore STEM related educational and career opportunities. The California effort is lead by staff from the Yolo County Office of Education, Curriculum and Instructional Services Department and the California Department of Education, CalServe Initiative.
NEED FOR STEM
In the last two decades we have seen a decline in student interest in taking Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related course work in high school. Among those who take STEM course work in high school, women and minority students continue to be under represented compared to the overall population. The additional cost for unequal access characterized by this under representation makes the issue not only a compelling and critical societal issue; it is also an equally important economic issue.
WHAT STEM DOES
The Initiative promotes STEM-based service learning opportunities for all students – especially female and under represented minorities – to increase student interest in pursuing STEM related careers and postsecondary study. Using the service-learning instructional method, STEM content and concepts are introduced in a nontraditional setting and thereby increasing the relevance to the student’s experience, which has been shown to significantly increase academic engagement. Consistent with the mission statement above, the focus of student development is to improve the academic engagement and retention of both secondary and higher education students. Another key focus of the Initiative is to better engage participants in the civic lives of their community. As students solve critical issues in their community, they understand that they do have a voice in their democracy and learn how they can take a leadership role in their community.
PROJECT TEAM PARTNERSHIP MODEL
The foundation of the Initiative is the formation of “Project Teams” that are partnerships among: secondary school STEM teachers and students (grade 7-12 students), higher education STEM faculty and students, community non-profit or public agency(s), industry partner(s) and STEM advisors. STEM service-learning projects are interdisciplinary and intergenerational, where secondary school and higher education students work together on a project and use subject matter from a variety of disciplines to achieve the project goals. STEM industry Boomers and working professionals serve as project advisors. AmeriCorps Members serve as STEM Service-Learning Project Assistants for each Team. Community issues related to the environment and energy, disability access, and meeting human needs are met through STEM design solutions. Teams will come from traditional in-school STEM related courses and, from out of school programs, Partnership Academies, clubs, smaller learning communities, charter schools and other programs that want to implement the STEM based service-learning instructional method.
STATE AND REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE
The Initiative is guided by a state level STEM Service-Learning Advisory Committee made up of members from leading service-learning and STEM related organizations, community based organizations, associations and industry partners. The committee provides leadership and builds capacity by promoting the initiative, and identifying resources for support and expansion.
Regional STEM Service-Learning Consortium's (RSSLC) lead the program implementation work by identifying and supporting Project Teams (Teams). Each RSSLC recruits and selects the participating Teams from secondary schools that have populations of under represented youth.
Having experienced and knowledgeable Project Team staff, faculty and partners is critical to making this Team model work. The RSSLC provides training and support to the Teams as they come together to design, implement and sustain high quality STEM based service-learning projects. Regional Team Facilitators are in regular contact with their Teams and provide technical support and identify resources. Annual Summer Institutes and follow-up Team meetings are provided to ensure that the Teams are successful and make the best use of the resources needed to lead and sustain their STEM service-learning efforts. Much of the training and technical assistance focuses on understanding and meeting the needs of our targeted student population. Special attention is be paid to learning how to recruit and retain students in their STEM course work and how to help them make a successful transition into further education and into STEM careers.