Vanderbilt University

Creating STEM Communities for Underserved Middle Schoolers, Families, and Teachers

Take Action

Connect with us

To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

The U.S. needs more STEM professionals than it can produce at current graduation rates. Further, a lack of diversity in our scientific pipeline means that considerable talent is being lost, negatively impacting innovation and problem-solving. We know that students who gain early exposure to enriching STEM activities increase their academic performance, awareness, skills, self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and career readiness, but those opportunities are not equally available to all students. This project will join together ~20,000 underserved middle schoolers, with an extensive high school to professional STEM community to foster greater diversity and strengthen the STEM pipeline. Four organizations will partner to support students, their families, and teachers by engaging them in innovative culturally relevant hands-on science activities, mentorship, and training. Mentoring student caretakers and providing professional development to teachers will result in durable and replicable STEM communities that fully support underserved students and develop them as scientists.

Problem Statement

Inability to secure a future generation of scientists and innovators able to solve problems regarding the quality, equality, and sustainability of life poses a significant universal threat. Women make up 30% and underrepresented minorities (African Americans or Blacks, Hispanics or Latinx, American Indians, Alaskan Natives) only 11% of the US science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. The pipeline for entry into STEM suffers from recalcitrant ways of thinking about who does STEM and the lack of culturally relevant learning opportunities for girls, underrepresented minorities, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students. Middle school is a critical point in which students are lost in the STEM pipeline. Students who do not self-identify as a scientist, have exposure to science careers and role models, and opportunities to practice real-life science typically do not master STEM coursework in high school or pursue STEM college majors or careers. Diversification of the STEM workforce will continue to be challenging as long as opportunities to receive repeated and relevant exposures to STEM training, mentorship, and support at critical junctures in the academic and career pipeline are not available to all students. Positively shifting STEM identity, knowledge, and skills for underserved middle schoolers through academic and social support systems that extend beyond traditional classrooms will be necessary to promote STEM high school, college, and career success. To-date, no single program has addressed this problem in a way that has drastically shifted the number of underserved middle schoolers in the STEM pipeline.

Solution Overview

Our transformative program will provide: 1) hands-on training and STEM exposure for students, 2) integrated scientific and holistic mentorship for students, 3) STEM exposure and mentorship for students’ caregivers, and 4) teacher training and curriculum development to ~20,000 middle schoolers, their families, and teachers in nine cities and surrounding areas. Our STEM community of NOBCChE and ACS (high school to college to professional) members will offer weekly afterschool chemistry outreach activities during the academic year for rotating groups within 450 middle schoolers per school (21 schools). Each middle schooler will receive 8 sessions per year. We will leverage existing hands-on chemistry instructional modules and supplement with web and app-based curriculum. Select eighth-graders (~50 per year; one school) will participate in an intensive science academy with a 2-hour accelerated science class per week, internship, and social/emotional and scientific mentoring.In addition, we will provide parent education workshops and facilitate positive parent-child learning opportunities (e.g., Family Literacy, Science, and Math Nights) to enhance family support of STEM career paths. American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) workshops will be offered nationally, locally, and over the web for teachers to enhance curriculum and professional development, networking, and stronger engagement with their students. By incorporating immersive, hands-on training and STEM exposure plus near-peer and professional mentoring, students will benefit from academic high school readiness in STEM, increased STEM learning experiences and self-identify as scientists, and improved social skills. This program creates and sustains STEM community at all levels, thus preventing leaks in the pipeline.

+ Read More

More Solutions Like This

STEM education

Fundación Omar Dengo

Digital literacy and computational skills for youth in Central America

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala

STEM education

National Math and Science Initiative

Bringing Opportunity Closer for All Students Through STEM

United States

STEM education

Society for Science & the Public

Global STEM Network Creates Transformative Problem-Solvers and Leaders

Brazil, China, India, Kenya, United States, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Greece, Senegal, Uzbekistan

STEM education

Girl Scouts of the USA

The Girl Scout STEM Pledge: 2.5 Million Girls by 2025

United States

STEM education

North South Foundation

The North South Foundation’s STEMulate Initiative

India, United States

STEM education

Girl Scouts - Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas

Lead Like a G.I.R.L.: Full STEAM Ahead

United States

Load More