Scientists in School’s program and presenter team hold an enormous range of science and engineering backgrounds and a big dose of creativity and passion. We develop our STEM workshops in-house in a collaborative effort. Workshops are constantly evolving with feedback from participants (thanks to over 5,000 workshop evaluations returned annually from participating teachers), and from our own team’s observations. We attend many training and professional development sessions and are active contributors to the STEM landscape in Canada.
We have always held the belief that our customers know their needs best; as our programs are being developed, we pilot the investigations and activities with children and youth, our key beneficiaries. We gauge their level of engagement and reactions during the investigations, and engage in conversations with them to gain their feedback. Since our program targets children, sometimes as young as four years old, we also prioritize feedback from parents and teachers who know the children and their capabilities and interests well.
We place high value on research, evaluation and measurement. We embed our research findings in our workshop development in ways that will help grow impact for our key youth outcomes: (1) increased confidence to explore, question and discover; (2) positive attitudes towards STEM; (3) increased understanding of scientific principles; and (4) increased awareness of science and its relevance in everyday life.
Just ahead of COVID-19, Western University researchers, led by Dr. Isha DeCoito, completed a largescale longitudinal research study to help inform our focus on maximizing key STEM outcomes. The study included approximately 2,000 middle school students in marginalized urban communities, surveyed twice in each year of participation. All of the classes received two workshops from our topic selection in each of Grades 6 to 8. The researchers further reconnected with almost 300 of them during grades 10 to 12 to probe for evidence of lasting impact.
The results during the elementary years portion of the research showed amongst other findings that: students who had two Scientists in School workshops starting in Grade 6 and through to Grade 8, had highly positive responses for key outcomes – interest, confidence, and understanding the relevance of STEM in the world around them. What was most inspiring was that the degree of positivity for interest and confidence of the girls grew with multiple workshop experiences, to the point that with six workshops over three years, gender gap differences for a suite of STEM outcome indicators between Grade 8 girls and boys shifted from 10% to insignificant.
In 2016, we created a roadmap to achieve a vision of no child being left behind. Together with our donors, we are working to reach our goals through our Adopt-a-School model. We are constantly looking for new partners to work with to achieve a bigger vision than our current 10-20% annual pool of complimentary workshops for deserving schools. Currently over 30% of our program participants attend schools where average parental incomes are below $60,000. We are working hard to change that so that no child is left behind.
Our name reflects the important work that we do; although we send scientists into schools, it is the children who become scientists in school