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Teenage Designers of Learning Places for Children - Sci-Port Discovery Center

Sci-Port Discovery Center—Shreveport, LA

Project Name: Sci-Port Imagineers (project overview poster)

Mission

To encourage a passion for science, mathematics, technology, and life-long learning by providing hands-on tools for using scientific discovery in everyday life.

Project Leader

Greg Andrews and Kristen Takara

Project Summary

As an outcome of this pilot program, youth and Sci-Port will develop a STEM learning environment for teens located witihin Shreveport. The program will conclude with youth preparing and leading the general public in PIE activities for a week during the month of June. Teens will visit local industries and meet with scientists for inspiration.

Project Goal

First, we would like to incorporate "longer-engagement" activity areas in our center.

  • Sci-Port will develop structured locations throughout the center where these activities can occur
  • Sci-Port will determine the materials, setup, seating arrangement, and space requirements to best facilitate these kinds of activities

Second, the overall purpose of the program is to mitigate the high school dropout risk for the chosen participants. To do this, the activities:

  • Are multidisciplinary activities
  • Present engaging opportunities the youth would otherwise never experience in a traditional setting
  • Stimulate Gardner intelligences and encourage long-term engagement and problem-solving in an informal setting
  • Extend an opportunity for the youth to create their own web-based portfolios to increase self-confidence

Project Description

  • Facilitate the launch of a multi-disciplinary four-month after-school program for 9th and 10t graders
  • Incorporate elements of mechanical and computer engineering, robotics, and art
  • Decrease the risk of dropout for inner city high-schoolers

Community Collaboration

Community Partner

  • Bossier Parish School Board (BPSB)

    Mission: To increase the academic achievement and workforce skills of all students while preparing them to be responsible and productive citizens through focused teamwork among educators, parents, community members, and students

    • BPSB has an eight year working relationship with Sci-Port
    • BPSB oversees 19, 202 students and 35 schools
    • BPSB sponsors an educator-on-staff (Kristen Takara) who manages the liaison between the formal system and informal science center
    • Nearly 8500 students visited Sci-Port during the 08-09 school year
    • Provided transportation for the Sci-Port Imagineers
  • Bossier High School (BHS)

    Mission: In partnership with parents and community, to foster the development of an environment that will facilitate learning for all students, promote self-esteem and respect for others, and launch learners on a quest for high standards, all of which will lead them to be self-sufficient adults

    • BHS has a student body of 659
    • 65.5% minority
    • 59% free/reduced lunch
    • Experienced a decline in several subject areas (Science, Math, Social Studies)
    • Provided students for Imagineers project

Our Youth

Description of Youth

  • Come from an educational institution that is classified as "high need"
  • Identified as having a high probability of dropping out of high school
  • May have attendance and disciplinary problems and special education needs
  • None have a "privileged" background
  • Most participate in extracurricular activities
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Track and Field
  • Color Guard
  • Flagline/Danceline
  • One female is engaged!
  • Most have parents that served or are currently serving in the military

Number of youth recruited

13

Recruitment process

  • Consisted of a combined input from teachers, school counselors and Sci-Port staff
  • Applications were sent to BHS and filled out by prospective students
  • BHS personnel selected students who fit the requirements and returned 13 applications

Role(s) on the project

The youth were given options as to what type of project they wanted to work on and they made a unanimous decision for robotics

Comments by youth or their families about the project

Pros

  • Snacks/Food!!!!
  • Kool-Aid!
  • Unique experience outside the classroom
  • Engaging
  • Camaraderie
  • Fun
  • Learning something new
  • Selected
  • Monetary reward

Outside presentations

  • Field Trip to Dr. Boucher
  • More time allowed for more projects

Cons

  • Equipment failure
  • Locating pieces for projects
  • More time allowed for exploration of Sci-Port
  • Speeches
  • Work space
  • Hoped to build a BIG robot
  • Environmental distractions
  • Conflicts with extracurricular activities

Most participants, including the 10th graders, have asked if they can come back next year!

Assumptions We Made

Those proven false:

  • Commitment
    • Initiative to finish projects
    • Staying focused/ignoring "distractions"
    • Accounting for extracurricular activities!!
  • Communication
    • Participants fail to report reason for absence
    • Parent/Legal Guardian involvement
    • Some parents were unaware of activities/transportation arrangement
  • Behavior
    • Maturity
      • Abused internet access
      • "Follow the leader"—if one misbehaved, others quickly followed suit
    • "Spill over" from school causes disruptions
    • Vying for attention
  • Eager to explore facilities

Those proven true:

  • Camaraderie
    • Most displayed genuine concern for one participant
    • Enhanced friendship
    • Report on each other
  • Communication
    • Many "called in" to report they were unable to attend
  • Commitment
    • A few had excessive absences, but most came when they could
  • Extremely intelligent
  • Excitement of completing a task
  • Competiveness
  • Gained self-confidence
  • Personality differences
    • Natural leader
    • Nurturer
    • Writer
    • Strong personalities stood out

Insights We Gained

  • Provide more challenges amongst the youth (ex. Robot Wars)
  • Flexibility for, not just extracurricular activities, but also for outside work schedules, family, personal issues, technical issues, etc
  • Discovered different ways to encourage productivity
    • Music
    • Dance
    • Video Games
    • Sports
    • My Space/Facebook accessibility
  • Furnished ideas for attracting similar-aged youth
  • Need direct communication with partnering school(s)
  • Possibly arrange for Saturday sessions as opposed to twice-a-week sessions
  • Can’t have enough snacks
  • Project helped develop leadership skills, teamwork skills, self-confidence and communication skills among the youth
  • Project also helped promoted job skills
    • Effective communication
    • Examination of presentation/speech styles
    • Thorough analysis of datasets and/or information
    • Troubleshooting
    • Responsibility for one's area

Learn more about St. Louis Science Center's YES program, and the Science Museum of Minnesota's Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center