1999-00 CUOS K-12 Education Outreach Program Progress Report
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


A. Mission, Goals, Strategies

The National Science Foundation Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) mission for K-12 and Community Outreach is to support community coalitions in order to, eventually, produce more scientists and engineers, particularly from underrepresented minority groups. We believe that the learning community coalition model is potentially the most effective means of achieving these related goals:
1. Ensuring all children have access to hands-on and discovery-based learning experiences promoting scientific and mathematical literacy;
2. Directly supporting children's and teens' learning, where possible, with one-on-one mentoring; and
3. Providing all children opportunities to explore careers within science, mathematics, technology, and engineering fields.

The intent behind these goals is to enlarge the pool of young people interested in technical careers and prepared, both academically and motivationally, to pursue the higher education needed to enter such fields. In order to get there, we need to give children more experience and success with scientific activities, to improve the teaching and learning of science in schools, and to use career exploration as a way to motivate study and improve learning via personal goals and relevancy.

Our specific strategies, all aimed at drawing more stakeholders into our common enterprise, include
1. Creating learning community centers in schools;
2. Establishing science and career clubs in schools, churches, and community centers;
3. Linking academic and career mentors with youth; and
4. Helping children to teach science and to engage in their own research.
called-out quote Learning Community requires all of us to change perspective in a major way. The us-vs.-them barriers must be broken down to create coequal collaborators. While it is common for business and university "partners" to observe problems in schools and families and to prescribe solutions, few have done the truly difficult work of observing themselves—their roles, resources, and real stake in outcomes for children and families, teachers and schools. We cannot come in to "help" teachers and families. This is as insulting as a man offering to "help" his wife around the house—as if that work were not legitimately his, as well. Helping children grow to successful adulthood is arguably society's most basic task, and it belongs to all of us.

In order to accomplish this task, we require concerted action with collective leadership, a focus on deep understanding and systemic consequences rather than on short-term relief of symptoms, and a willingness to live flexibly with uncertainty, experimentation, and reflection. If, as we say, we want our children to learn, then called-out quote wemust learn. That cannot happen unless we are willing to admit that we do not know and to allow another to teach us. We need humility and openness as much as energy and dedication. While all of this is mucheasier said than done, the bright side is that living this way is deeply satisfying: even though society's problems are not instantly solved, those working on solutions are not overwhelmed by it all and mired in depression. When we know we are making a real difference, we can live with incremental progress.

B. Structure and Funding

For readers unfamiliar with who we are and how we work, the following is a brief summary of organizational details. We are reporting here on the activities of three groups. (1) The K-12 Education Outreach Program of the Science and Technology Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) is housed at the University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor and primarily funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). (2) Reach Out!is a UM student organization sponsored by this outreach program and founded by our student workers and volunteers. (3) The Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition is a loosely organized group of individuals and organizations who collaborate in efforts to improve the science and math competence of area children and teens.

To cover the last one first, the Coalition is an umbrella organization, some of whose members meet once a year to exchange ideas. We have produced a newsletter in the past, but the Web site has taken over the function of disseminating information to members. Its primary function is to serve as a public relations tool and resource collection for members, without any of us appearing to take credit for the others' efforts. The UM College of Engineering graciously hosts this large and growing site, and K-12 Outreach staff maintain it. The Web-based aspect of Coalition activities is covered herein. We also report on our collaborative efforts as Coalition programs, but this report makes no pretense of covering the activities of all Coalition members.

gardening at George

CUOS K-12 Outreach is the only one of the three groups with any funding to speak of, so the activities we report on are mostly those of this group. Those activities, however, receive vital support from the Reach Out!coordinators we pay and the hundreds of volunteers they recruit, train, and supervise every week. The organizational chart in Appendix A gives an overview of K-12 Outreach and Reach Out!programs. Reach Out!could not have come so far so fast without three years (1997-2000) of start-up funding from UM President Bollinger's New Century Fund for Diversity, which covered work-study or stipend pay for student coordinators, consumable and nonconsumable science materials, and modest recognition events and tokens (mostly t-shirts). Within the last year, we have received funding or commitments for funding in the coming year from several Coalition partners (Pioneer High School, Downtown Ann Arbor Kiwanis Club, The Neutral Zone teen club, Bethel AME Church, the Community Church of God Opportunity Center) to pay for student coordinators of programs we run at their sites or for van rental to get volunteers to Ypsilanti. These are examples of Learning Community in action: the lines are blurring between us and the groups with which we work; all are contributing people, time, and money to our common ventures.

The university, of course, contributes office space and other infrastructure needs, plus the major portion of work-study funding. The CUOS home at UM, the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, contributes money that can be used for expenses not allowable under our NSF funding, such as snacks for our mass meetings to recruit volunteers and pizza and soft drinks for our end-of-term celebrations. Many individuals and groups contribute or discount the cost of food for our summer camp or "field trips" and supplies for our children's clubs. Several individuals make charitable contributions to us every year, for which we are very grateful.

We are at the point where limited funding has become a roadblock to our expansion. Currently, K-12 Outreach provides a director and one full-time staff member for program oversight, planning, training, evaluation, maintenance of multiple program databases and the Coalition and Reach Out!Web sites, and administration. It also supports (through work-study funding when possible and stipend when necessary) part-time UM student coordinators, who are responsible for planning and running site-based programs, recruiting and training volunteers, providing ongoing support to mentors, procuring science materials for club activities, gathering participant contracts and evaluation data, and serving as liaisons with their school or community center staff. All of our academic and science club mentors are volunteers, the great majority of them UM undergraduates.

Our Coalition stakeholders include a multitude of others who provide specific resources or serve in particular roles at sites. These include business people who offer job shadowing or tours, parents who lead clubs, children who teach science to other children, community adults who volunteer at the church and community centers where we work, and so on—in addition to the groups and individuals previously mentioned that provide financial support for coordinators or materials.

Partly because of this financial support from partners, we have just been able to hire Debra McCartney Hamann as our elementary programs coordinator. Debbie is a Reach Out!founder and four-year veteran program coordinator who graduated from UM College of Engineering last spring. For the first time, we have had the incredible luxury of doing real planning in the summer for our 2000-2001 elementary science clubs. Having activities planned, materials acquired, orientation sessions scheduled and handbooks prepared before the return of undergraduates in the fall has been simply wonderful! K-12 Outreach Director Jeannine LaSovage has been working with stakeholders from Kiwanis and the Neutral Zone to find funding for a secondary programs coordinator, whom we would like to have on board by January 2001. Similarly, we have been extremely successful with parent Learning Community Coordinator (LCC) Susan Shoemaker in Pontiac. As she moves into a consulting role, training other parent LCC's, we wish we could pay her more than part-time. And we would love to be able to afford to hire a counterpart for Ypsilanti Schools. Parent Doris Calvert has begun to work in Ypsilanti, and we would like to be able to hire her as an LCC trainer there. The parent-to-parent model works exceptionally well at the elementary level.

LaSovage and Program Associate Martha Toth cannot describe their relief at not being completely overwhelmed—not "a day late and a dollar short," but more like "ten days late and a hundred dollars short"—for the first time in years. Our programs have grown, and requests for expansion have grown even faster. We have been limited in our ability to oversee any more growth by short staffing and limited money for consumable science club supplies. There are plenty of partners waiting in the wings for us to launch programs with them, if we can find additional financial support. [Section I.B.3 of this report details some grant-writing attempts we have already made.]

C. Summary of Outcomes

After five years of efforts by the Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition, The CUOS K-12 Education Outreach Program, and the UM student organization Reach Out!,we have significant results to report. Surveys and anecdotal evidence indicate the following.

  1. Children and teens are
    • Forming real relationships with UM students, community and business partners who care about, spend time with, and listen to them;
    • Experiencing fun and success with science as they explore interests, build things, and learn about the world around them;
    • Developing confidence and a belief that they can "do science," succeed in classes, and even teach others; and
    • Exploring their skills, talents, learning styles, and possible careers they might enjoy.

  2. Teen and young adult volunteers are
    • Developing leadership skills and confidence;
    • Forming friendships with each other, bonds with the children they serve, and a sense of belonging in what is—for many of our university students—a temporary home; and
    • Enjoying real, ongoing community service in a way that we hope will lead them to become stakeholders in their future communities.

  3. Community groups and individuals are
    • Becoming genuine stakeholders, as evidenced by increasing volunteer participation and substantial monetary support for programs; and
    • Forming collaborative relationships that build a sense of community.

We are convinced that a breakdown in community is a common root for a host of problems, such as dysfunctional families, overburdened and ineffective schools, poor student motivation and achievement, and the psychological isolation and anomie that lead to violence. Rebuilding community, therefore, can be expected to relieve all these symptoms and to bring people together to focus on and address the needs of called-out quote their youth. One lesson we have learned about building learning communities is that our success is very dependent upon the stability offered by the continuing presence of the same people year after year. Even when we have been organizationally involved at a site for years, it always takes a new coordinator months to win the trust and respect of people there. (A possible exception is when a known volunteer takes over as coordinator, since he or she is not starting as an outsider.) Ongoing relationships seem to be the sine qua nonof this kind of community development work.

D. Five-Year Program Summaries

chart of 5 years of
        science club data
chart of 5 years of
        science club volunteer data
chart of 5 years of
        mentoring data
Reach Out
        coordinators 1999-2000

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