Final CUOS K–12 Education Outreach Program Report, March 2002
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If you are reading this, we assume, you already grasp the problems of our children and teens today, so we won’t waste your time laying them out. We assert that young people cannot wait for studies, task forces, or pilot programs. They need action, and they need it today. Kids can’t wait, so we’re not waiting—we are mobilizing young adults and community folks and organizations to give them the guidance and care they need to develop into whole, competent adults who can work constructively and collaboratively to improve their society. In President Bush’s phrase, we are “rallying the armies of compassion.”
Our programs evolve constantly because we don’t wait to develop the perfect model before acting. In fact, we don’t believe there is any perfect model for rebuilding community around our children and nurturing their development; a community follows the values and passions of its members, so each community’s approach and methods will be different. Form doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we all hold ourselves accountable for the accomplishment of any society’s and any family’s primary task: perpetuating itself through the successful raising of its young. This is not a spectator sport—we are all players, whether we acknowledge that or not. We all have a vital stake in the outcome.
These annual progress reports are written not because anyone requires them, but because we hold ourselves accountable to our stakeholders, including the National Science Foundation (and the taxpayers whose funds support their programs); the University of Michigan (which has provided us with critical infrastructure and other enabling support); the university folks—especially undergraduate students—who have formed our volunteer backbone through the years; the local community partners who have contributed funding, sites in which to work, and vital humanpower; and the children and teens who have allowed us into their lives and allowed themselves to depend upon us. Their families and teachers also deserve an accounting of what we have learned while sometimes encroaching upon their provinces.
We are writing this year’s report and evaluation from the perspective that we do not know whether we—the K–12 outreach folks now sponsored by CUOS, the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science at the University of Michigan, the Reach Out! student organization sponsored by them, and the Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition facilitated by them—will still exist in April 2002. This uncertainty leads us to a summative report that will communicate the most important things we have done and learned over the past several years. We intend to demonstrate progress and effectiveness, to show that money and other resources invested in us have been successfully deployed. We are less improvement-oriented and more knowledge-oriented this time, since, not knowing whether we will be here to improve things next year, we are more anxious than ever to disseminate what we have learned for others to replicate. In jargon, we have some “best practices” to share that we don’t want lost with our possible demise.
While we will provide overall numbers and summarize programs for the past six years, we believe that the more valuable part of our analysis will be to extract themes, which can be generalized to other situations and can serve as a model for replication. There is no “cookbook” for what we do: it requires endless adaptability and tweaking. Yet a focus on processes—both in the development of programs and partnerships and in that of individual participants—can, we believe, communicate what works and why.
Another purpose behind this report, of course, is to garner support for the continuation of our programs, after the predesignated “sunset” of our sponsoring center, CUOS. Any reader with advice or resources to offer is encouraged to contact Program Director Jeannine LaSovage.
As the U.S. Congress found in the proposed National Science Education Act, H.R.100, 2001, the United States needs scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to continue the research and development that are central to our economic growth. We need technologically proficient workers who are comfortable and capable dealing with the demands of a science-based, high-technology workplace. And we need scientifically literate voters and consumers to make intelligent decisions about American and even global public policy.
The mission of CUOS K–12 Outreach, Reach Out!, and the Coalition is to help fill all three of these needs, with a particular focus on the women and minorities who are typically underrepresented in science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) careers and on the disadvantaged who are commonly left behind as the technology train leaves the station. We aim to increase the scientific literacy of all groups and to support the technical learning and career aspirations of any interested young people we can reach. Moreover, our undergraduate student volunteers from the University of Michigan experience personal growth through outreach, which contributes to their retention by the university and to their effective functioning as students and as citizens.
We have realized our mission. We have successfully developed a movement across campus and with partners in business, K–12 schools, churches, and other community organizations to leverage and link mentors with children for science clubs and with teens for academic support and career exploration. We have mobilized hundreds of college-age adults to form ongoing relationships with children and teens, meeting the needs of both sides for human connection and a sense of purpose. We have successfully integrated community adults, especially retirees, into programs, where they enjoy learning from and guiding the young adults they work alongside and the children and teens they serve. Our system and programming are a model for the state and, we believe, the nation. Here is the abbreviated version of who we are, what we do, and how. Our specific strategies, all aimed at drawing more stakeholders into our common enterprise, include
As noted above, “we” encompasses the CUOS K–12 Education Outreach Program, the Reach Out! UM student organization, and a southeastern Michigan community coalition—all focused on math and science learning and literacy. All three are rooted in the mandate by the National Science Foundation that Science and Technology Centers, including CUOS, do K–12 outreach for the purposes noted under “Mission.”
CUOS outreach started small after the center was established in 1991, handled “on the side” by center administrator Autumn Craft, who hooked up with existing UM outreach programs: the Minority Engineering Program Office’s Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, DAPCEP, and the Center for the Education of Women’s SummerScience for Girls, later Future Science: Future Engineering. CUOS graduate students were hired to coordinate portions of each summer program, for which other graduate students volunteered to develop and run specific learning activities. Later, as it became more difficult to recruit enough CUOS graduate students, we turned to School of Education student coordinators and to undergraduate volunteers. The first CUOS K–12 Outreach Director, Debbie Clark-McCormick, began partnerships with Owen Elementary School in Pontiac and with Lessenger Middle School in Detroit, which brought UM scientists and students of all kinds to the schools for one-time activities with both children and teachers.
When Jeannine LaSovage replaced Ms. McCormick as Director, she brought with her the partners and the format of a learning community coalition based in Ypsilanti. Over the course of summer 1995, past and potential coalition partners met several times to form the Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition. This new coalition was both broader and narrower than its predecessor: the geographic area expanded to include Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties (but specifically not limited to them), while participants agreed to focus on math and science. All participants appreciated the value of reading- and recreation-centered programs, but they further recognized that hardly anyone was doing outreach with a technical flavor. Later, we discovered the same was true for career exploration programs; in both cases, we fill a need that was largely ignored.
The Coalition is a loose organizational framework surrounding a shifting cast of partners whose collaborations also evolve constantly. We help each other when and where we can and share collective wisdom and experience. The CUOS K–12 staff provides support services for new initiatives and ongoing programs, which is what permits constant evolution without loss of effectiveness. We do have some expertise to offer and consider it part of our jobs to mentor others who are just beginning to do the same kind of work. Usually these intense coaching periods only last six months or so, and we think they contribute something of real value not readily obtainable elsewhere. It’s all part of the learning community philosophy.
|Aarti & friend - science in the park|
As we recognized how much children and teens needed in services, and tried to expand programs accordingly, we suffered a severe volunteer shortage. To deal with it, we went first to the College of Engineering (CoE) and then to the university community as a whole. Large numbers of volunteers, almost all undergraduate students recruited by Reach Out!, allowed us to do more. In December 1996, four part-time, work-study student members of CUOS outreach conceived of a campus-wide student organization with the goal of enlisting volunteers to promote math and science literacy and to facilitate career exploration for children and teens in the community. In January 1997, with the leadership of these students and the sponsorship of CUOS Outreach Director LaSovage, the group was officially named and registered with the Michigan Student Assembly. The (UM) President’s New Century Fund for Diversity provided the seed capital to create Reach Out!, funding work-study or stipend pay for UM student coordinators, consumable and nonconsumable science materials, family outings, and t-shirts and refreshments for recognition and celebration parties at sites. Since that time, our joint work has been financially supported by small grants from many community partners, in addition to several arms of the university. They include the UM College of Engineering, the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, the Community Service Commission, and the Road Scholars program at the University of Michigan; the Downtown Kiwanis, the Neutral Zone, Bethel AME Church, and Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor; Community Church of God and George Elementary School in Ypsilanti; the City of Pontiac and Pontiac Owen Elementary School; plus a dozen or so individuals.
In the course of the past seven years, 1995–2002, Reach Out! and CUOS K–12 Outreach have achieved the following:
|Katie, Elizabeth & Kiesa -|
reporting to Kiwanis sponsors
As this listing indicates, we often have difficulty giving a 30-second answer to “What do you do?” We do many different things, but all related to our mission and goals. We have been admonished in the past to “focus” and to do fewer things so that—presumably—we could do them better. We are extremely proud of how much we have accomplished without giving up anything that we thought was important to our mission. The reason we have been able to achieve so much is that we did none of it alone. Our partnerships are not in-name-only; rather, our partners contribute ideas, hard work, and modest funding to our joint projects. And our hundreds of university volunteers have been the structural pieces for which we provide the glue.
You now have the flavor of what we do—hands-on science with kids, academic mentoring with teens, personal and career exploration with all age groups. While the forms of what we do vary enormously over time and from site to site, all of our programs have been animated by the same guiding values and principles:
Our databases track academic mentors, career mentors, science club mentors, academic mentees, career mentees, and science club participants by semester—our programming unit. New clubs start with each new semester, even if many of the same volunteers and children stay over from one to the next. Mentoring pairs are matched every semester, even though many continue together for one semester after another. So, the same individuals are counted anew for each new program.
Sometimes we group categories such as academic and career mentoring (which are often offered simultaneously to the same teens), but other times they are broken out to make a particular point. Sometimes we talk about science activities, including one-time activities, and other times confine ourselves to science mentoring (ongoing, weekly meetings of the same people).
Some programs cross boundaries in a way that makes them hard to classify. Camp Discovery contains elements of science and career mentoring, and a lot more. Youth Task Forces tend to involve science, career, and academic elements. Summer algebra specifically combines academic and career guidance. These programs may be listed in one category or another, depending upon what the chart is illustrating.
Our Web-based list of volunteers is by name, so each individual is listed only once, even if he or she participated in several capacities over many years. Also, this listing includes volunteers who provide sporadic support services: chauffeuring volunteers or children, hosting tours, donating meals, etc. They are certainly not mentors, but their service is also vital to what we do.
In other words, when the numbers are not the same, it is because
they are referring to (sometimes only slightly) different things.