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Scientists for Tomorrow - A Self-Sustained Initiative to Promote STEM in Out-of-School Time Frameworks in Under-served Community-Based Organizations: Evaluation and Lessons Learned

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Perceptions and Attitudes on the Pathway to Engineering (1)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Marcelo Caplan Columbia College Chicago

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Marcelo Caplan - Associate Professor, Department of Science and Mathematics, Columbia College Chicago. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am involved in the outreach programs and activities of the department. I am the coordinator of three outreach programs 1) the NSF-ISE project “Scientists for Tomorrow” which goal is to promote Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning in community centers in the Chicago area, 2) the Junior Research Scientists program funded by After School Matters of the city of Chicago, to promote STEM for high school students and 3) a collaboration with the Center for College Access and Success – Northeastern University to promote STEM learning in their Upward Bound Math & Science program, also oriented for high school students. More information regarding the mentioned programs can be find at

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On 2011, the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) Initiative started with the support of an NSF-ISE grant for a period of two years serving 15 sites. Today the initiative is in its sixth year, serving more than 40 community based organizations (CBOs) sites, 600 middle school student and 150 parents per semester in a self-sustained mode. The SfT initiative is designed to provide urban youth in Chicago with information and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers and foster positive attitudes toward Stem subjects and related careers. Given that the initiative is hosted in the Department of Science and Mathematics – Columbia College Chicago, an art and media school, the contents promoted in the communities include also an Art component, changing from STEM to STEAM.

The initiative is a partnership between a higher education institutions, local community based organizations (CBO’s) and local Informal Science Education providers. In the original design, the implementation of the program in the communities during the academic year, was divided into 3 sessions of 10 weeks: Fall (October-December); Winter (January- March) and Spring (April – June). Each session explores a different module such as Alternative Energies, Physics of Sound and Mathematics of Music, People and Plants, Robotics or Astronomy. Before each session starts, SfT provides more than 15 hours of professional development for all of the instructors involved in the program (staff members from the CBO’s, grad and undergrad students). Each session includes 10 meetings (once per week) of 90 minutes with an end of the module showcase the last session. At the end of each module, all of the CBO’s sites participate in a Family Science Day in one of the ISE venues partners: Museum of Science and Industry (December), Field Museum (March), and Garfield Conservatory (June).

The question the initiative explores is if there are changes in participants’ and CBOs leadership attitude towards STEAM and gain of content knowledge. For this effect, participants are given a pre and post attitude test for each module per session, in order to determine their knowledge and awareness towards STEM. These tests are scored through an external evaluator and provide quality information for how to modify curriculum in the future. Additionally, all instructors are required to complete Activity Journal Logs after each of their class sessions. These internal evaluations allow instructors to reflect on their formative assessment techniques, as well as find where they needed more support. Leadership within the program reads the logs daily and reacts accordingly, providing all necessary resources. Finally, the Community Site Director, Coordinators and Volunteers are given a survey to evaluate the program as a whole, at the end of each module. These are internally analyzed to find effective improve the partnership as well as their STEAM afterschool program. The result of the four years external evaluation (two years of the grants and two years no-cost extension) shows that the initiative has a significant positive impact in the attitude toward STEM of the participants as well as in their gain of content knowledge. Also shows a significant positive change of attitude from the CBO’s leadership toward the introduction of STEAM academic enrichment activities as part of the regular activities in their OST programs.

Some of the learned lessons include 1) the need to have more parental involvement in the OST activities of their children to ensure the success of the initiative, 2) have a flexible professional development and instructors follow up strategy to ensure the quality of the learning process and the growth of the CBOs capacity to continue promoting STEAM as an integral part of their OST educational offer, and 3) the need to promote the public perception that OST learning is important as formal education to promote the children, especially in under-served communities.

Caplan, M. (2017, June), Scientists for Tomorrow - A Self-Sustained Initiative to Promote STEM in Out-of-School Time Frameworks in Under-served Community-Based Organizations: Evaluation and Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28812

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