Final CUOS K–12 Education Outreach Program Report, March 2002
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We put our values and the recurring “themes” in what we have learned first, because we think that no one could replicate what we have done without grasping and sharing our mindset first. Now it is time to set out some organizational details. This task is complicated by the fact that we want to report everything in this final evaluation, and our programs have continually evolved. But that is important to know: there is no one right answer in this outreach work—and there never will be. Just as modern business methods call for continuous improvement, our organizational framework should both allow and encourage innovation and adaptation to changing circumstances and participants.
One thing that sets us apart, we believe, and that underlies our success, is the breadth and quality of the advising integrated into our programs. We deliberately cultivate a culture of listening and responding to individuals, which both forms and requires two-way relationships. We have taken to calling this the Kiesa Factor, after the teen who articulated it so clearly for us. When her older sister spoke of how her volunteer work with a high school group was changing the world for the better, Kiesa asked her, “(1) Can you attach names to that, and (2) how have they changed you?” In other words, for which specific people have you improved things, and how has doing so changed you? If you can’t answer these questions, then you are holding back, playing the do-gooder. No real or lasting change will happen unless and until you get personally involved enough to be changed yourself. This is as true for the program director as it is for the site coordinators, the volunteers, the support staff, and every single participant in every program.
Conceptually, our programs have aimed at giving children and teens opportunities to do hands-on science, to explore themselves and their career options, and to support them in their academic pursuits. Structurally, the science has happened in weekly science clubs run by a paid coordinator and undergraduate volunteer mentors; in youth task forces with a paid coordinator and many one-time community volunteer mentors; and in wizard programs with a paid coordinator who trains young people to do a science demonstration or to facilitate an activity, which is then shared repeatedly with other—often younger—children.
The personal and career exploration has taken the form of career clubs run by paid coordinators and bringing in volunteer community presenters, as well as going out for work-place tours; workshops run by a paid coordinator with several volunteer helpers in a place with on-line computer access; individual career mentoring through a several-week process by adult community volunteers trained by us, culminating in specifically targeted job shadowing; and solicitation of career presenters, tours, and job shadowing opportunities available to all and posted on the Web.
Academic support has been provided by community and university staff, faculty, and student volunteer mentors, supervised by a paid coordinator at each site. Because the Ann Arbor schools allow “community resource credit,” several mentors have been able to take on the responsibility, with our support, of teaching algebra I and II, geometry, chemistry, and biology to their mentees who were failing in the regular classroom. We have offered two small-group algebra courses in the summer taught by paid undergraduate students supervised by our program director (a former education professor). Some programs, of course, cross boundaries. Camp Discovery is partly science activities and career exploration, but mostly personal mentoring for children in need of caring adult guidance and wider horizons; it, too has had paid coordination and volunteer counselors and event providers.
The following is a visual representation of our aims and our “product and service lines.”
Goal: Establish a “learning community” to support teachers and students in science education and students in personal discovery.
Sites: Schools, church-based community centers, recreation centers, teen clubs, other community centers
|Program Elements: Scope and Sequence of Goals|
|Elementary School||Middle School||High School|
|After-school science clubs – schools, churches, community centers|
|Hands-on science with teachers in classrooms – schools|
|Personal discovery – career clubs, mentors & workshops|
|Children as teachers – partnered with teachers and/or clubs|
|Students as scientists, including science forums and youth task forces|
|Math & science academic mentoring|
|Celebration events for clubs and wizards, brown-bag lunches to share|
|Symposia for youth, parents, teachers & community on learning, careers, etc.|
1. Train the trainers.
Train-the-trainer and coaching methods, common in the business world, are the approaches we take across all levels. To us, this implies highly individualized training that is both effective and efficient, since we don’t make people “learn” things they already know how to do. We honor their ideas, capabilities, and integrity in a system that builds upon one another’s assets and experiences, resources and ideas, and personal contacts.
Someone who already has done the task at issue commits to coaching another person. The typical process is (1) the new person comes to watch or job shadow. Together, they share and break down what one needs to know and do, in a very individualized manner that acknowledges the expertise and experience the new person brings to the role. (2) The new person begins to share the role with the experienced person. (3) The new person takes over with the experienced person in the background to mentor as needed. (4) The successor gains confidence and flies solo, coming back to share and reflect. (5) Team meetings ensure we continue to share, grow, and learn from one another and from our mistakes.
Freely sharing expertise develops new leaders—important in a sphere where your best folks are constantly graduating and leaving you! But it also maximizes our reach through decentralization. We could never be as effective if we did all our training in large groups without flexibility. The same kind of individualized teaching/learning process happens in many contexts within our programs:
Coalition building and stakeholder development. We work with our UM students and community partners to define a need of our children or teens clearly. Then we look at ourselves: what resources, experiences, and contacts do we possess? We develop our own resources and experiences into strategies and experiences for the youth we serve. Someone may feel comfortable leading the kids in doing a science project but not have the confidence to choose it. Someone else will bring options of projects. Someone else may come along to be able to guide the kids in their learning, to answer questions, or to be a resource to find information that we don’t collectively have. For example, Aarti became very capable in managing groups of kids, organizing them into small groups or pairs with mentors, and training mentors to do the projects with kids (what questions to ask; don’t do it for them; there’s no one right way to do it, and so forth). When it came to dissecting cow eyes, she knew she needed help and turned to CUOS scientist Greg Spooner. Greg trained Aarti and mentors, and came out to the sites with them. We ended up with a new stakeholder who had knowledge, experience, and resources we didn’t. He took on a role and a responsibility to us and our kids and sites. Similarly, Karyl saw that teens needed to get out in the real world and learn about careers. She and her UM mentors didn’t have the information or the work places to take the kids. We reached out to Kiwanians, worked together with them, developed an orientation for and with them, and mentored right along with them the first few times. They ended up being new stakeholders, with the experience, resources, and time needed by the kids that we did not have. They took on a role and responsibility with us and our kids and our sites.
We always start with that defined need of the children or teens we serve and go from there. We pool efforts and share the work load, using each other’s gifts and talents and skills. Career mentors make the 6–8 week commitment. Job shadow providers make a once-a-semester commitment. We do the training, orientation, support, Web presence, and evaluation. Together, we give the teens the things they need to explore, learn about themselves, and get out into the real world.
Science clubs. We knew children in Ann Arbor needed more experiential science, but how to deliver it? Where? It made sense to reach our target populations at community centers and churches, but we only had relationships at Peace Neighborhood Center. Along came Mike Conboy, who was already at subsidized housing sites doing reading clubs and had established relationships with each site’s coordinator, kids, and parents. We agreed the children also needed math and science and so became partners and mutual stakeholders at all the sites. Mike coached and trained Deb and Aarti on the sites: who was who and what was where, etc. Deb became confident and led science clubs; then she coached and trained new UM students to be coordinators at each site. Now, they, in turn, each pick a mentor to train as a successor, before they graduate and leave us.
Academic mentoring. Our program director coordinated this for nearly two years: recruiting and training mentors, finding and registering teens, matching pairs, working with the teachers and principal, being there to support them, evaluating via surveys of teens, mentors, and parents each semester. Then Doris came in as a parent coordinator, paid by the high school. She learned by shadowing the director. Then Karyl (a Reach Out! undergraduate) came and watched, took on pieces of the process, and one day insisted on taking over the coordination. At team meetings, she’d share concerns and things we needed to change. She became totally capable of it all—and, frankly, did a better job than we had, anyway.
Children. Our Wizard model is coaching of kids to teach other kids. Susan Shoemaker in Pontiac and Sherri Ahearn and Doris Calvert in Ypsilanti have worked with children over an extended period to help them choose a science activity and become comfortable sharing it with a small group or a classroom of others. The form varies (in Pontiac, where Owen School was emphasizing careers, students formally applied and interviewed for the Wizard “jobs"!), but the essence is to empower children and to use them to bring hands-on science opportunities to other children. The trainer coaches, encourages, supports, and procures the materials needed.
Teens. Teens work with Deb and UM mentors at Camp Discovery and in several science clubs. They watch the mentoring, start helping out and sharing, and then become mentors with their own kids—first with our support and on-the-spot feedback, but eventually independently. Teens in the Slauson Middle School Builders Club cosponsored by our program director also explicitly do community service. Now that club members have several connections to us (career mentoring and summer algebra, too, for some), they plan to help out with science clubs, too.
Meetings and presentations. Again, our students came alongside us to “important” meetings at first (State Senator Alma Wheeler Smith, National Science Foundation staff, College of Engineering deans, Kiwanis leaders, Ann Arbor School administrators, business partners, staff from the Michigan Community Service Commission, UM central administrators). We presented overall scope and goals, and they prepared and gave reports on their particular programs. Now, they arrange for meetings and prepare agenda and make presentations, often without us—or we go only as support and encouragement. Examples of this are meetings with UM Associate Vice Presidents, with College of Engineering deans, with the Ann Arbor district science coordinator, and with principals.
Recruiting at FestiFall and mass meetings. The program director used to do this, with student input and presence. Then we planned together—scheduling, refreshments, logistics. Then they took over, consulting as needed but mostly just advising us of their plans. They come in afterwards to update us, to share problems and good points, and things we should do differently, but they do all the planning and work now.
Orientations for UM science club and academic mentors and Kiwanis career mentors. Again, Jeannine used to do them and the coordinators watched and participated a little. Then, they did them together as buddies, each doing pieces. Gradually, they took over. Now, they just do them solo and come in to share, reflect, and debrief.
Coalition meetings. The program director had organized these for years. Staff and students came along to watch and to present their specific programs and services. By January 2000, they planned and ran the meeting solo when the director was on a medical leave. Our next meeting will be hosted by others and presented almost entirely by partners.
Web work. Martha Toth trains students or volunteers to help with this. They are coached, work in the same office with constant feedback and review, begin to work elsewhere (from dorm or library, for example) with remote review, and finally work solo, just reporting on what they have finished. Deb created last year’s Camp Discovery pages completely on her own, including the time-consuming image editing.
Flyers, forms, brochures, advertising pieces. We did them with student input; they did them alongside Martha; now, they create them and bring them in just for editing and approval.
Database maintenance. Martha trains site coordinators in the database program so that each can keep up with data entry for his or her program. This tends to require more frequent coaching or retraining, since they forget what they don’t use between semesters, but it still works better than Martha trying to enter all data—and inevitably becoming a bottleneck.
Field trips and family outings. Jeannine used to get input on when and where to go and do it all. Students came along to help with pieces of the process. They took over more and more until now we sometimes know about these only when they need another helper!
Interviewing business people for shadowing, tours. Grace Kim (BSEE 1998) went with Jeannine several times to watch her do this. They did it together a couple of times, then together with Grace doing all the talking, before she began to arrange and carry out the interviews, come back and post the Web listing, and send a thank-you with a copy of the posting and tips for shadowing or tour conduction all by herself. The same process worked with learning community coordinators Susan Shoemaker, Marie Cooper, Sherri Ahearn, and Doris Calvert—although, not working at UM, they never took over the complete Web posting process.
In-class recruiting. Jeannine did the first presentation/pitch to an auditorium full of Psychology 350 students on doing service learning through us while Reach Out! undergraduates watched. They did a piece of the next presentation; then did the whole thing with Jeannine in the audience. Now, they do it on their own, later sharing how it went and what to change.
Materials for science clubs. We used to work with them to define what we needed to buy and we did the shopping. Now, they do it all, including the UM purchase order and cash advance paperwork. Jeannine signs and files copies and notes the budget changes on reports.
Recommendation letters. Deb had this process “done” to her, watched Jeannine do it, and now sometimes interviews students, writes letters herself, and just sends Jeannine a copy!
Team meetings. Ongoing growth in knowledge and perspective is nurtured at weekly team meetings. In addition to things specific to programs and sites, we discuss and explore together such topics as cooperative learning, intentional dialogue skills, personal beliefs and values related to our work, dealing with roadblocks, evaluating hands-on science, developing partners, learning styles and multiple intelligences theories, and our own mission and goals.
The coaching model is used in almost everything we do. It allows us to be efficient, effective, and flexible. It assures continuity of programming as participants turn over. It engenders personal growth and independence, while fostering significant growth in programming, service lines, and sites.
C. Voices, continued
I really hit me that I needed something more in my life.
- Science club mentor
At FestiFall, it was like I was led to the Reach Out! table. Sounds weird, I know. But then when I listened to them talking about the program, it really hit me that I needed something more in my life here. And up till then, I don’t really think I even thought that I needed something more. I thought I had compassion for others, I said I did. I said I cared about people and kids who weren’t as lucky as me. But I wasn’t doing anything. This year has been my best so far here [at UM]. And I know it is because I’m involved, I’m doing what I talk about, I am compassionate and now I’m holding myself to it by doing something. I don’t know what kept me back before. I’m just glad I stopped at that table that day, signed up, and got that call to get involved. I hate fake people. But I think I was one of them. I’m not now. And I love my kids, I really do. And they love me. Compassion. That’s just the word I feel when I’m with them and they’re with me. And that is really something. Campus looks different to me now. Everything does, and that probably sounds weird. This has been one really weird year. A great year.
Kids deserve to have that “why” question answered.
- Academic mentor
My mentee just asked me, “Why do we have to learn this stuff, anyhow?” That really threw me. Why do we? I know you guys are taking kids out to job shadow and I think that is really important. I mean, why do we need to learn so much of what we have to? I think kids deserve to have that “why” question answered. I knew I wanted to come to UM. That was a “why” for me—I had to have the classes and grades to get here. But I think we need more than that, and lots of kids really need more. Seriously, when we talked about career stuff in the fall, I really didn’t think that applied to me and math mentoring. I’ve really changed my mind on that. I think we should do a lot more of looking at jobs and careers, and earlier on, so kids have a purpose to take these classes, you know?
I thought I was just doing a little community work. Uh, huh. My community out there is working on me!
- Science club mentor
When I go home to my church, people always stand up and give praise reports and testimonies and things like that. I used to look at these grown-ups getting all excited when they talked and think that would never be me. Well, I’ve gone back home and stood up sometimes and talked about my kids and what I am learning about myself in Reach Out! Go figure! I thought I was just doing a little community work. Uh, huh. My community out there is working on me! Can I tell you how it is to stand up and mean what I am talking about and why I am so happy about it? This experience is changing me and letting me put my faith into action. That may be corny to some but it has been real important to me. My Mom always asks me what I’m really convicted about. Now I talk with her about that. I’m lucky this is happening for me here [at UM] because I don’t think too many are doing that, thinking really about what they are convicted about. Reach Out! helps me do that.
My kids are real. I don’t think I was.
- Science club mentor
I can’t get over how selfish we all are. I mean most of us have had just about everything and we just want more. Being in Reach Out! has stretched me, big time. What’s so important in my life? And why did I get the lucky draw to have so much in my life? And what am I doing to help someone else who just wasn’t that lucky? I’m thinking about me a lot now and I’m thinking about my Dad and Grandpa and thinking about who I am going to be. I didn’t think about that last year, let me tell you! I think a lot when I go out with my kids. And when I come back. And lots of times all the week in the strangest times. This experience is all over me. I’m going to get engaged next year. This has made me think a lot about that and who I am and want to be and who we, my girlfriend and me, are going to be. I was really selfish, probably still am to some point, but I’m changing that. I guess I think I owe these kids something. I just didn’t think about owing anybody anything till this year. I also see what they give me. We think we are giving out there, but I think we are really getting out there. My kids are real. I don’t think I was. They are teaching me a lot out there.
I know we can make more than a little difference; we can make a really big difference.
- Pre-med student
My older sister talks about her college experience and protesting things and taking stands for things. I don’t think we are standing up for much of anything anymore. I think we could and should stand up that all kids can learn and do learn math and science. I think Reach Out! could be a movement like that, and I think we [her generation] could make a big difference. We just came out of the school thing. We know it and we know what doesn’t work but we survived. Most of our kids we are working with won’t survive. Not the way it is and not with the little help they are getting. I think they know it and I’m knowing it now. I think we could really get behind this and make a big difference. Not just protesting or something, but getting with these kids and helping them learn. It’s like we get all bent about what is going on in the world or what is going on with our generation and we aren’t getting behind a cause or something to make it better. Some of my friends are really depressed about the future. They don’t want to have their own kids and all. This kind of program could be big. And I know from my own experience, we can make more than a little difference. We can make a really big difference.
It’s easy to just focus on me here at UM.
- LS&A student
I had this moral energy or something like that and no place to let it off here [at UM]. Reach Out! lets me test my morals and meet people who are serious about morals and their lives, I guess. I mean how many people do you know who are really committed to something outside of themselves? It’s easy to just focus on me here [at UM]. I’ve got this energy, I don’t know how else to put it. And I get to use this energy with my kids. And they give me energy. This may sound stupid to you but it is deep for me. I look around and think what we could do if we all got into something like Reach Out! It’s something. It’s energy.
I don’t think I know anybody that really likes their work. I don’t want to live my life like that.
- Middle school career mentee
What makes you happy? Right. That day really got to me. I don’t know, I just haven’t thought about what makes me really happy. But then when I had to think about that, it kind of scared me that I just didn’t, like, know. Then we talked about who we know that loves their work. That was something, I don’t think I know anybody that really likes their work. That really made me start to thinking that I don’t want to live my life like that but what am I going to do so that isn’t me? My mentor was so good at making me think about me, what I like to do, what I can do, what jobs are out there, and what I need to do if I want to have a good job I like and things like that. This isn’t stuff we usually think about, but I think we should be. Then we went job shadowing and the lady was so nice to us. She talked about stuff she did that she wishes now that she wouldn’t have. I think that is something that she would share stuff like that. It made me think that I’ve got choices, even right now, that I wasn’t really thinking about before. I’d never thought about stuff that I’m just good at—stuff I didn’t have to learn, you know? But I have things that I really like to do that I think would be fun to do for a job. And I learned about my personality. That was really cool.
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