Final CUOS K–12 Education Outreach Program Report, March 2002

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IV. Final-Year Programming

We decided some time ago, regarding the approaching “sunset” of CUOS and the possibility that our outreach programs may not live beyond that, to keep “running flat out” until the end. If we are unable to secure funding to continue, we will have no regrets about what we did not accomplish because we were “winding down.” Accordingly, we have been busier than ever in 2001–2002, especially since we are running programs with reduced staff.

A. Coalition Meeting Saturday, Oct. 13, 2001

The Southeastern Michigan Math-Science Learning Coalition was hosted by the Washtenaw County 4-H Extension Office. We featured our support for the national Afterschool Alliance program and the Lights On Afterschool! public awareness campaign in October. Both of these are part of the C. S. Mott Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiatives. Our program focus was on after-school clubs and programs in our area, with presenters from the Family Learning Institute of Ann Arbor, the Pontiac Environmental Youth Task Forces, Reach Out! Science Clubs, and the 4-H training available for clubs and community groups based on the Search Institute’s “Asset Approach.” Dan Bassill also drove all the way from Chicago to talk about the extensive Tutor/Mentor Connection program he coordinates there.

    Coalition meetings are a way to present ideas and possible formats to people interested in working with youth, while giving them new contacts who can mentor them through establishing similar programs. Attendees are always an eclectic group, so we learn much from one another. It is also a rare opportunity to showcase and celebrate our successes!

B. Pontiac Youth Task Force on the Environment/Engineering Wizards

We cosponsored a second Pontiac Youth Task Force on the Environment in fall 2001. Thanks to a new UM funding source, it had more of an engineering focus this time. CUOS scientist John Nees was a 2000 participant in UM’s Michigan Road Scholars Tour, as was longtime science club organizer Bill Schultz . This program takes faculty on a five-day trip exposing them to the state’s economy, government and politics, culture, educational systems, health and social issues, history, and geography. Intended to encourage service to the public, it also offers funding for projects that foster connections between the university and communities outside of Ann Arbor. John applied and received support for an Engineering Wizards program to develop a partnership between UM, General Motors, and Pontiac schools to involve children in both learning and teaching hands-on lessons in engineering, math, and science. This project built upon the Youth Task Force model piloted in winter/spring 2001, which allowed a multiage group of Pontiac children and teens to do experiments and to study on site problems related to environmental concerns in their city.

    Then-Mayor Walter Moore completely supported this program from the very beginning. The City of Pontiac Municipal Government provided $15,000 for the first group and $10,000 for the second one, not to mention exceptional support from many city employees as participants explored issues at city government sites and met at the public library.

    The second Task Force, lasting three months, centered around General Motors and environmental issues related to the auto industry, particularly the recycling of both automotive parts and plants. Ten middle and high school teens, along with three Big Brothers, met with General Motors content experts at the library during weekly sessions, as well as at the local GM Truck Plant. Each week, students shared their research and findings about particular topics of interest to them, engaged in related hands-on science projects, and worked on a long-term project of putting together a model car or truck of their own and then identifying just what parts and components could be recycled. Students were very interested in careers related to the overall automotive industry. Tours of the GM plant, along with those of Schrams Automotive Recycling and of Ferrous Process and Trading, introduced the teens to many fields of interest to them.

    Participants prepared poster presentations and exhibits of their model cars and findings related to recycling. Although very nervous while setting up these tables, the students came to enjoy mingling and “networking” with council members, the mayor, and many citizens who attended the council meeting that evening.

    Pre and post content and career information surveys were given to all students in the Task Forces. In both sessions, none of the children knew about the topics that they were going to study at the beginning; there was limited understanding of pertinent concepts and skills; they did not know about the range of careers and jobs affiliated with each session, and they had not visited any plants or companies that were part of the program. The information gathered from the post surveys were incredibly rewarding for all involved. Further, the students noted the sense of empowerment that they experienced by conducting research, preparing findings, and giving a report to the City Council. They also enjoyed meeting new friends and being on their local cable television. The manager of Oakland County Solid Waste Management Planning has asked that this YTF group present next May at the Michigan Recycling Coalition Conference that is going to be hosted in Pontiac at the GM Centerpoint Campus.

    Pontiac Program Coordinator Susan Shoemaker, who is also a Pontiac City Councilwoman, submitted the pilot Youth Task Force for a National League of Cities Innovation Award. We are proud to report the resulting special invitation to participate in City Showcase 2001, an exhibition of innovative city programs from across the country, at the NLC Conference in December 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia and the reporting on this program in the Dec. 24, 2001, issue of Nation’s Cities Weekly.

C. Science Clubs

We have continued to offer weekly science clubs for children at Arrowwood Hills, Bryant, and Pinelake Village Community Centers, as well as at Hikone Recreation Center. Two new Lunch-time Science Clubs have been offered at Pattengill Elementary School, as was volunteer support to children in choosing and implementing science fair projects. Recruiting was done as usual at FestiFall (the semiannual organizational display on the Diag), at the Serve It Up display of community service opportunities, at WinterFest, and at our own Mass Meeting; the first-time NorthFest on North Campus was unfortunately scheduled for Sept. 11 and, therefore, canceled shortly after set-up.

D. Computer Challenge Clubs

For the first time, we tried recruiting for the nonprofit Computer Challenge Clubs, which help middle and high school students to build computer skills, to develop leadership and teamwork, and to explore careers in information technology. We had attempted previously, with very limited success, to work with a student computer group to bridge the technology gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children. This new collaboration was intended promote our common aims of technical literacy and career awareness for teens, while offering our UM volunteers another format in which to serve and get to know their community. Because days and times were not finalized early enough, most prospective volunteers committed to science clubs instead, but we do not regret the effort.

E. Teen Academic Mentoring

Proving to us once again that it is people who make things happen, our academic mentoring program at Pioneer High School had difficulty surviving the loss of both longtime site coordinator (to graduation) and teacher sponsor (to retirement), while there was also great turnover in teaching staff and principal.

    Both our numbers and our effectiveness were down in Spring 2001—and it did not help that our new site coordinator ended up hobbling about on crutches for much of the semester! It seemed appropriate, then, to de-emphasize this program for fall 2001. Our focus was on continuing established relationships, where we can be most effective. Accordingly, we matched several of our summer algebra participants, most incoming ninth graders at PHS, with mentors. Returning mentoring pairs at the Neutral Zone have also received the minimal support they have required, and several new pairs were established among our Slauson Middle School Builders Club participants. Fifteen pairs met during fall 2001, and 15 pairs in winter 2002; 13 of those were continuing from the fall. For the first time, the majority of academic mentors have been business and other community folk, many of whom were attracted to us by our listings on the Mentoring.org and volunteersolutions.org Web sites.

F. Slauson Middle School Builders Club

Program Director Jeannine LaSovage (also a Kiwanis member) continues to cosponsor this club with SMS teacher Doris Sprentall. It meets after school to plan and implement service projects, especially at the Veterans Administration Hospital and at the Anna Botsford Bach Home. Kiwanis members are anxious to provide club members with career mentoring, but we have put this off until we know whether we will still exist in the spring, since it requires so much training and logistical support from so many people. Ten club members are meeting regularly with math mentors and, as of mid-March 2002, doing very well in their classes.

G. Detroit World Outreach Career Exploration Center

This Learning Community Partnership seeks church involvement in a simple and effective system to help youth to discover their gifts, talents, and abilities; to establish personal short- and long-term goals for their lives; to see the relevance of school and learning to their futures; and to develop a network of caring adults who are available to assist them in all of this. The initial target audience is the members of Detroit World Outreach who are willing to share their careers and work places via job shadowing and tours with children involved in their middle school youth group. The church members will volunteer their time as they receive training and actually provide youth with workplace tours and job shadowing experiences. We shared our techniques and created specialized forms for interviewing prospective volunteers. If we are able to continue our work in 2002, we will add these resources to our on-line career exploration pages and directories.

H. Wayne State University’s HealthFOCUS Conference

On October 6, 2001, for the second year, Reach Out! staff presented at HealthFOCUS: Health for Our Children in Urban Settings, sponsored by the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University. We were brought to this by Reach Out! founder and alumna Aarti Raheja, now at WSU Medical School. We share our science club model, plus ideas for health and nutrition outreach that doctors can do within their communities and practices, and we invite them to work with us on programs in both our community and in Detroit. For example, three medical students have volunteered as Camp Discovery counselors, doctors and students use our Web site and lessons/activities for their outreach programs, and we share some career exploration resources.


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