1999-2000 CUOS K-12 Education Outreach Program Progress Report
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II. Science Clubs

A. Program Description and Goals

Our primary goal with science clubs is to capture and keep children's interest in science through exciting, discovery-based activities, which also promote a deeper understanding of scientific principles and processes. A secondary goal, as always, is to offer children continuing relationships with caring adults—and vice versa: to offer our young adult volunteers ongoing relationships with each other and with children. Many volunteers took the relationships beyond what was prescribed for them. For example, members of the Pi Kappa Alphafraternity, in their second year as reliable club volunteers with us, came to school field days, ice cream socials, and band performances to interact with and cheer on "their kids." That's Learning Community.

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We believe that science can be intriguing, and the professional scientists with whom we work disclose that that was the prompt for their own choice of profession. While there were periods when they had to slog through difficult or boring work, it was the inherently interesting and problem-solving nature of science that kept them in their fields. Children need to catch that excitement while still young, before they come to think they are not capable of "doing science." Girls, in particular, research has shown, tend to ascribe difficulties they experience with technical courses to their own lack of ability; they need to establish greater confidence in their ability to work through difficult material—preferably before middle school. Just as young children can easily pick up computer skills because they are not handicapped by the fear and assumption of incompetence that so many adults exhibit, so they can pick up competence in math and science before it occurs to them to doubt their capacity to do so. That early success lays the affective groundwork for continuing success. Moreover, just as regular practice enhances the performance of athletes and musicians, for example, practice at acting and thinking like a scientist in informal settings translates to better performance in more formal school settings. In a way, we think of our science clubs as a "practice field" for classroom activities and achievement testing. They practice observing, Dissecting a cow eye
     at Bryant Community Center recording data, asking questions, developing and testing theories. They are learning and perfecting a processmore than absorbing facts.

Speaking of process, the developmental process of these programs is proceeding, as well. They have all been through the messy, first-year activities that look much more like aimless play than science activity. By the end of this past year, they were doing real lab-type experiments with considerable success. In the coming year, we hope to tie those activities as never before to exactly what they are learning in school at precisely the right time. This goal will be assisted immeasurably by our ability to hire recent UM engineering graduate (and Reach Out!alumna) Debra McCartney Hamann as a program coordinator for the next year or two. She has spent the summer planning for next year's science clubs, assembling suggested lessons and activities on a biology theme for the first semester. Each volunteer will be given a notebook of these and a calendar of planned meetings at orientation—a vast improvement upon our typical last-minute organization and procurement of materials. This change has been requested by volunteers for at least three years, but this is the first time we have been able to make it happen! We wish to note how edified we are that a woman with Debbie's credentials and career prospects would commit to a stint at this work—and at a pay rate perhaps half of what she could earn as an engineer.

B. Program Implementation at Sites

Making rocket cars at
     science club

During 1999-2000, there were 12 clubs, at Community Church of God Opportunity Center (four elementary and one secondary), Peace Neighborhood Center, Arrowwood Hills Community Center, Bryant Community Center, Hikone Recreation Center, Pinelake Village Community Center, George Elementary School, and Owen Elementary School (science and technical wizard groups). We no longer count the Community Impact Club at North Maple Estates as one affiliated with us, since Professor Bill Schultz and his students not only run this club by themselves but also rarely even request materials from us anymore. We admire their continuing commitment to the site and the children who participate. They make a real effort to build community, as by, for example, regularly cleaning up the grounds with their club members. The program is completely theirs now, although we are certainly open to any help they might request.

1. Community Centers: Arrowwood Hills, Bryant, Hikone, Pinelake Village, Peace Neighborhood

These community center programs sometimes seem like both the most difficult and the most satisfying work we do. Such centers tend to be called-out quote disorganized and chaotic, while, at the same time, their paid leaders can be very insistent on doing things in a certain familiar way. It can take years to come to feel like "insiders," with the acceptance that implies. People may be wary because the university is known for its yearly or one-shot programs and, unfortunately, volunteers can seem more concerned with building their "community service" résumés than with actually serving. It takes persistence before people come to rely on us to come back regularly and come to know us and respect our opinions.

Where, a few years ago, we were reluctant to ask too much of a commitment from volunteers, now we know that only those who keep coming back, who get to know places and people, will find the work fulfilling. When real relationships are established, they know they are doing more than serving others; they are filling their own needs, as well—their needs to feel useful, to belong, to give back.

This past year, we have struggled with conflicting expectations and scheduling difficulties and other nuts-and-bolts problems. For example, volunteers at one site took it upon themselves to knock on doors when their children did not show up for science club; university staff members worried about the liability issues surrounding college students being alone in a home—however briefly—with children. As another example, we had some trouble separating our new science clubs from the previously established reading clubs at some sites. Coordinators felt pressured to include more reading-intensive activities than they desired and worried about scaring children off with too "school-y" an atmosphere. They had to fight to establish boundaries, and that fight is still not over. At another site, the science club had problems with participants who were essentially assigned to the club rather than choosing it freely, which not surprisingly led to real discipline problems.

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Just when staff members are ready to give up on a site as just too hard to work with, a club coordinator will insist on staying because he or she finally feels that a breakthrough has been made. We try to carefully observe and document the development of our partners in the growth of a learning community, but sometimes we forget to observe ourselves. Why should we be immune from the necessity to soul-search and wrestle with operational issues? We take very seriously our obligation to document what we do and have learned, but that can lead to an "expert's" mind-set. It is vital to remind ourselves that we, too, are always learning and adapting in a dynamic process that will never conclude neatly.

2. Community Church of God Opportunity Center

Just such issues are at stake at the Opportunity Center. We have a long history there, with some staff members having been connected to it for as long as 15 years. It goes through cyclical transformations, as people and programs come and go. Some of us think it is time to leave, to let the congregation's volunteers take over the science program as they have the tutoring. Others fear that it is too soon, and that it will disappear if we leave. At times, we feel the tug of our "own" community in Ann Arbor: transportation to Ypsilanti is a problem for students; we have few other ties with the community. Are we really stakeholders? Do we really belong there?

But then we think of how some volunteers have become members of the congregation; of how some of us have lived there and still have friends and/or relatives and other ties in the city; of the connections there with some of our Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program participants from last summer. It is really not so far away. We have not reached a decision yet on how to proceed next year, but a compromise is likely. It will probably take the form of our continuing to provide one Making things at the 
     Opportunity Center Science Club or two student coordinators for a more limited program that uses volunteers not from the UM community but from the church congregation. We also think it might be a good expression of "stakeholder-ness" if the church were to provide the stipend for such coordinators. We would then be moving more into our ultimate role there as consultants, merely assisting them in their ownprogram.

The director of the Opportunity Center, Beverly Tyler (who is also an Ypsilanti teacher and was a participant in the 1999 RET program at CUOS), noted that church members have expressed a desire to reclaim their own program. A year of financial support from the Ypsilanti Public Schools, including participant transportation, brought much greater numbers of children to the center, which may have hurt the quality of the programming. Beverly wants to go back to the days when the same children participated regularly and volunteers contacted no-shows to let them know they had been missed and to encourage them to return. Along the same lines, we have agreed with her that limiting the science club(s) to 20-40 children would increase effectiveness for participants.

We are not sure what to make of it, but note with interest that longtime Opportunity Center movers and shakers are now playing similar roles throughout Ypsilanti Public Schools; they include two principals and one central administrator. Certainly, it has to be good for children to have the same folks in more than one setting determined to help them reach their potential.

3. George Elementary School

Planting flowers at
     George School

George School is also in Ypsilanti, and serves many of the same children as the Opportunity Center; a former director of the center is the principal there. We still believe that this school would make an ideal place to develop a school-centered learning community along the lines of the successful model at Pontiac's Owen School. So much of the success of that model is traceable to the efforts of the right peopleover a sustainedperiod of time, and George hasn't quite caught that lightning in a bottle yet.

However, round three or four of the attempt has begun! The Courtyard Garden Club instigated in spring 2000 by CUOS staffer Doris Calvert is another entree to the school community. Networking in time-honored learning community fashion, she approached a teller at her bank, Paula Eggert, whom she knew to be an avid gardener. She, in turn, pointed Doris to a bank vice president, Lou Morse, who is also a Master Gardener. Lou brought in tools and a rototiller, Doris obtained donated supplies from the business community, and the three women helped this club carry through a project they helped design for the betterment of their community.

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Again, the content of the activity seemed less important than the process. Children developed their leadership skills, made collective decisions, and won the respect of their peers and teachers. They kept journals of their planning and implementation process, and also wrote letters asking businesses for donations and thanking them afterwards. Doris became known and respected by staff there and was included in the contracted training of staff by the High/Scope Foundation for their new Multiage Academy format at George.

Wizards experiencing 
     waves in Maya Lin's Wave Field

Doris has spent the summer inventorying and organizing the school's Community Resource Room, which had been in considerable disarray. The school had been packed up for renovations and, by the time they were done, there was no Learning Community Coordinator to unpack things in the new room. In fall 2000, Doris will be spending regular time there preparing experiment stations to complement the science curricula. This is new territory for her and for us, but we have high hopes of becoming a genuine contributor to the school's new project-based science program. She will also be mentoring a mother hired by the school to become a Learning Community Coordinator, charged with bringing the community into the school and the students out into the community. If this works well, we may begin a collaboration with Ypsilanti's Adams School, which will become a math-science academy in fall 2001. Beverly Tyler teaches there and the CUOS K-12 Outreach Director knows the principal from the Community Church of God and its Opportunity Center. This illustrates the organic growth of a learning community, through a web-like network of personal contacts.

4. Owen Elementary School

Since Owen School has been our focus in Pontiac, accomplishments and plans there are covered above in section IA on the Pontiac Learning Community. In summary, the Learning Community Coordinator there has pioneered a "wizard" model in which children become teachers and demonstrators, as well as participants, in science activities. The science and technology wizards at Owen (who are very attached to that title, even if we have tried to get them to adopt something people can grasp more immediately!) have shown in yet another context that the process of what we do is more important than the content. For example, they have chosen science activities based more on personal interest than any instructive potential or connection to curriculum. Yet they and the students with whom they share these activities have greatly enjoyed them. The effects on the wizards themselves and how they are viewed by themselves, by peers, and by teachers are nothing less than profound. Suddenly, they are seen as more competent than before. Their attendance, attitude, and grades improve. Other students figuratively get in line to join this group and attain its status. It is important to note that many wizards have been Title I students or otherwise labeled "at risk." The empowerment and self-esteem they gain is an incalculable benefit—whether or not anyone gains scientific knowledge from their efforts.

One departure in this year's program was four visits by Owen wizards with scientists at the university. The personal relationship LCC Shoemaker developed with Research Scientist John Nees and Professor Herbert Winful during her participation in the CUOS Research Experiences for Teachers program on campus in the summer of 1999 led directly to this experiment. Owen Principal Shirley McClendon justified paying for a bus from Pontiac to Ann Arbor by filling it Measuring
     amplitude with other students who toured a nuclear reactor across the street while the wizards were interacting with the scientists. The UM scientists did hands-on activities related to light, optics, and lasers with the children.

On their first visit, students learned terminology such as "crest" and "trough," and measured the amplitude and frequency of waves in Maya Lin's Wave Fieldearthwork and in the reflecting pool on North Campus, as well as in more traditional ways. The second visit added the terms "frequency," "resonance," "nodes," and "anti-nodes." They measured resonance by counting how many anti-nodes appeared on a string as they added mass to one end of it. Once they finished measuring, John prepared a graph and showed the children how they can predict an outcome by measuring. The third visit explored other kinds of waves, using pipe and water-filled-bottle xylophones and CUOS Director Gérard Mourou's viola. The wizards learned how frequency and amplitude relate to pitch and loudness; how you could classify sounds by both; and how you can describe them so that others can replicate your work (as in writing a "song" and using a system to describe it that others can decode). On their final trip, the students toured some of the CUOS laser labs, discovering to their evident surprise how exacting and even tedious such research can be. The students came to really respect John and to enjoy coming each month, despite the long bus rides. They want to do it again next year.

Making a wave

When the UM trips became too much of a financial burden, the science wizards took one last, briefer field trip nearby to do math at Great Lakes Mall. Ms. Shoemaker developed four lessons for the trip: measuring the perimeter of the mall by walking and counting their steps and by using a more exact digi-wheel, using map skills and the mall's directory to find specific numbered stores in the mall, and doing a directory search comparing the number of different types of stores and displaying this data in a bar graph. It made for a simple and exciting hands-on math experience for the children.

As alluded to in the report on the Pontiac Learning Community, we do not now know whether this program will remain the same next year or expand exponentially. The district superintendent has expressed an interest in such an expansion, but details are nowhere near being nailed down. We are excited by the prospect of such an amplified program but do not yet know whether such a large change will come to fruition during the 2000-2001 school year.

C. Anecdotal Evaluations of Science Clubs

The following excerpts from mentor evaluations show how the advice of people who've been there can help us to continuously improve our programs. They also demonstrate the profound impact such volunteer relationships can have on the college students who participate.

Do you have ideas for future lessons?
  Some of the readings (for the seasons/equator lesson especially) were very difficult for the kids—and my kids were very good readers. I think they may have been taken from a high school text. In general, the kids seemed to enjoy the interactive (project-making, hands-on) activities best. Maybe another artistic project that emphasizes creative expression (as opposed to: follow the instructions and make this...).
  Maybe constructing more group projects would enable the students to produce more complex and, therefore, more interesting results for the children.
  I think it's important the projects are easy enough for the kids to do themselves so that way they won't get frustrated and lose interest.
How can we improve our program?
  Maybe we could have a "getting to know you period" with all the volunteers before we start going to the site. This way, we'd know everyone's name. I didn't learn everyone's name until the last couple meetings.
  I really enjoyed last week's [group] project because it was fun watching the kids work together. It also gave the mentors an opportunity to talk with the kids more. More projects where mentors and kids are all working together will help us all get to know each other better and help the kids improve their problem-solving skills and ability to work in groups.
  A suggestion I have is to meet beforehand with all of the volunteers to explain exactly how to handle the experiment. Also, I think that a short demonstration could be helpful to the children at the beginning.
  I felt rushed a lot of the time and wish that I could have spent even more time on projects with the kids.
  Although I didn't have trouble helping the children with the projects, I think it would have made it easier for me and more interesting for them if I had a day or so to look over the material and see what I find most interesting. It would have enabled me to share some personal knowledge with the children also.
What experience(s) impacted you the most?
  Simply talking to the kids about their interests, families, etc. It amazes me how intelligent and motivated my kids seem to be (at such a young age, and under their circumstances)! Plus, the brightening of their faces as I walk in is especially rewarding! :-)
  Hearing some of the stories about the family conditions these kids come from. It made me realize and appreciate what I have.
  The one-on-one impacted me the most. It really helped me out personally to help a child, and it made me feel good doing it. It was a relief to get with people outsideof campus life. A skeleton visits
        Hikone Science Club
  I liked working with children because they "tell it like it is." It is interesting to see how we can learn from them as much as they learn from us.
  It kind of feels good to be someone they can look up to.
  I enjoyed seeing the children so excited to see us when they came. Even if my day was bad, coming in and seeing someone so happy to see me, really cheered me up.
  I think I learned how explain things multiple ways. If they didn't understand it the first time, I had to think of a new way to explain it.
  Seeing the children react to the mentors when we come and go. It isn't just another thing for them to do that week—they really seem to get excited about it. And that makes me feel really good.
How has your experience working with children affected your views and ideas about the needs of children, the role of community centers, etc.?
  It taught me that community centers do have an important role in many children's lives. I learned that some of the smallest things you do can impact a child's life in an important way.
  These children live in homes with very unstable supervision and attention. I think that it's great that so many people are trying to help them realize their potential. The community center is a great place for them to go to get the attention and help that they need after school.
  It has shown me that one person really can make a difference. I don't know that I am having an earth-shattering impact on my mentee, but I know that for the time being I am taking part in something that seems to make her happy, and you can't put a price on that.
  My experience has caused me look at the bigger picture outside of the U of M campus. I definitely would like to continue volunteering in a similar environment in the future. Community centers provide a great atmosphere for the children because they are safe and have adult supervision.
  I've gotten a glimpse of how much the kids need something like this. I've always thought along those lines, but seeing it firsthand and interacting with the children made it much more real to me.
  I was impressed at the resources available at Hikone, and the variety of activities offered to kids there. It's certainly reinforced my belief that community centers and programs like this canwork.
  I notice that there need to be a lot more activities for children who can't afford to be placed into community sports teams or classes. It seems that if you don't have the extra $50 to sign up for Little League, there aren't many free activities you could participate in.
  It is incredible to me what a group of dedicated people can do to provide an enriching, safe, fun environment for disadvantaged children. As I said, the children are clearly motivated, and they know they have a strong support base, which is extremely important. As part of my work at the center, I did a report for my psych class on resilience in children, and one of the key protective factors (that allow a child in an at-risk environment to develop successfully and cope well) is support from outside the family, in the form of teachers, neighbors, or mentors. I sincerely hope that our presence there has helped fill that role.
  I definitely have seen a much greater need for community involvement in education. Although parents, teachers, and classmates play the largest role in the education of a child, interactions outside of class with people not directly involved with their formal education helps a lot in the children's development.
  I have always thought it was important to help the less fortunate. This only affirms the fact that it doesn't take too much to put a plan into action and make a difference.
  Working with the children has reopened my eyes as to how needy some children can be for a role model in their lives. I used to live in Detroit but ... I guess I had forgotten what that is like. I also realized how much some children need help with homework and basic studies.
  I think that everyone in the community should take time out of their busy lives to take a look at the lives of others. The less ignorant people are of the things that happen around them, the more understanding, selfless, and aware they will be to the future—which is each and everychild.
  Community centers such as the one we worked at provide a refuge away from the pressures of school that even young children experience.
  I really enjoyed the inter-generational experience [at a center with elder volunteers]. We were all there to help the kids, so there was a great sense of solidarity (everyone was there to help each other, to give the kids the best experience possible) and support. Exploring the
        innards of a cow eye
  I see how crucial programs like this are. Teachers can't do everything and having a community center where kids can learn and get help is very important to their education.
  I have realized that there are people (especially children) that need help in my own community.

D. 1999-2000 Science Club Program Summaries

chart of 1999-2000
     academic and career mentors by site
<- Previous Section   Table of Contents   Next Section ->
  A. Mission, Goals, Strategies   D. 1999-2000 Program Summaries
  B. Structure and Funding III. Academic and Career Mentoring Programs
  C. Summary of Outcomes   A. Program Description and Goals
  D. Five-Year Program Summaries   B. Program Implementation and Plans
I. Learning Communities: Overview     1. Pioneer High School
  A. Pontiac: Accomplishments and Plans     2. Slauson Middle School
  B. Ypsilanti: Accomplishments and Plans     3. The Neutral Zone
    1. Community Church of God     4. Owen Elementary School
    2. George Elementary School     5. Camp Discovery
    3. Grant Explorations   C. Anecdotal Evaluations
  C. Ann Arbor: Accomplishments and Plans   D. 1999-2000 Program Summaries
    1. Science Clubs IV. Technology
    2. Career Mentoring   A. Technology Implementation
    3. Academic Mentoring   B. Usage Statistics
    4. Possible New Church Involvement   C. Anecdotal Feedback
    5. Evidence of Systemic Change V. Research Experiences for Teachers
II. Science Clubs   A. Program Description and Goals
  A. Program Description and Goals   B. Program Implementation for RET 2000
  B. Program Implementation at Sites   C. Continuation of RET 1999
    1. Community Centers VI. Appendices
    2. Community Church of God   A. Organizational Chart
    3. George Elementary School   B. Scope and Sequence of Goals
    4. Owen Elementary School   C. Web-Site Home Page
  C. Anecdotal Evaluations   D. Partners List

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