t-STEM Institute enhances students' education through workshops, activities

LSC News

For the past three summers, the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP) at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), in collaboration with Liberty Science Center, has run t-STEM Institute, an outreach program for rising high school seniors.

Funded by NextGen, a Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant awarded to Rutgers-Newark through the U.S. Department of Education in 2014, t-STEM is designed to engage students from Newark, Jersey City, and surrounding communities in STEM related activities and increase their interest in becoming STEM educators.

This summer, the program ran for two weeks, from July 6 to July 20.

During the first week of the program, t-STEM students participated in multiple inquiry-based STEM workshops and hands on activities, including an egg drop contest that tested their practical knowledge of physics, a math lesson during which they built race cars out of simple materials and designed mathematical models to predict the distance the cars would drive, and a STEM carnival with STEM related games (and carnival food!) to close out the first week.

One highlight of the first week was a customized field trip to LSC. Students began their day with an inquiry-based activity to engage their minds in the science processes of making observations and inferences, specifically how structure affects function.

In small groups, students then visited either the Eat and Be Eaten or Our Hudson Home exhibitions, where they made observations and inferences about the adaptations of the animals they saw. One of the students' favorite activities was viewing the movie Dream Big, which highlights the stories of engineers of color working throughout the world. Dream Big also highlights a high school robotics team competing against Ivy League colleges, which many of the students found inspiring.

Students also had unstructured time at LSC to visit exhibits of their choice. The only thing that could have made this trip better is more time to visit!

During week two, the t-STEM participants examined the teaching profession using a social justice lens. They played a “rigged” Monopoly game that raised awareness of equity and privilege, and enjoyed a powerful interactive performance by the NYC-based Theater of the Oppressed.

On the last day of the program, the students themselves had the opportunity to be teachers, as they designed and delivered STEM lessons to their peers that incorporated topics in social justice, such as environmental racism and using math to fight political inequalities.

Finally, students were able to hear firsthand from STEM educators and current UTEP students about their pathways to teaching throughout the week.

As we enter into the 5th year of the NextGen partnership with RU-N’s UTEP, we are thrilled to have a continued role in growing the next generation of STEM educators. We enjoyed working with the t-STEM participants this summer, and we hope the t-STEM program inspired future STEM teachers!

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