Teachers have lots of responsibility; not only are we responsible for teaching content and social-emotional skills, but also to expose students to new and authentic experiences to make meaning of the world around us. Exposing students to higher education via STEM is my blog focus this week!

Let’s rewind a bit. I’m an alumna of a big ten university that had student organizations with deep roots in local schools. Fast forward four years, I’m teaching in an urban area with amazing universities scattered all around the city, but my students have no clue what higher education opportunities are located in our town. They know about March Madness schools, have been brainwashed into loving my university, and know the name of the local community college down the street, but my students lack the awareness of academic programs and exposure to interacting with college students. It is my job to change that and STEM is the route I took to do it!

 How do teachers network with colleges and universities to expose elementary school students to higher education?

In January, I asked my administrators at a team planning meeting about their thoughts on making connections with local universities. With testing, data analysis, evaluations, and other day to day concerns, the response was, “Ms. G, make it happen.”

How to Link Your Elementary School with a Local University
1. Narrow down which university you’d like to create a partnership with. My city has over sixty institutions. I narrowed down the college choices to two. I chose to start off with a university within ten minutes of our location and a university about thirty minutes away. The one a little further from my classroom was a sister school to my Alma Mater. That was a plus!
2. Visit the college of education website to look for contact information for staff. I sent a couple admissions folks a friendly email introducing myself and explain my interest in having college volunteers to work with our after school program and Saturday school. I also purposefully selected the college of education because freshman and sophomore students always need hours in the classroom before clinicals and student teaching start.
3. Outreach to student organizations. Research student organizations such as academic groups, professional groups, and fraternities/sororities. All student organizations look for service opportunities to add to their club’s resume. Everyone wants to give back to the community, so why not take advantage?
4. When you find a contact, continue to network with that person. This may lead to an additional opportunity. Teachers are busy, but sending a friendly email or two never hurts…or takes more than 5 minutes!

The only emails I received back were from student organizations. I attended a SHPE outreach event with my students earlier in the school year and the outreach coordinator passed along my info to the organization listserv and other science clubs on campus. After all the networking, my students were invited on a STEM field trip by student organization, EDT. My seventh graders transformed into college engineering students on Thursday by actively listening to a mini-lecturette in a college classroom, touring a college campus, bouncing from engineering lab to engineering lab, followed by attending a robotics session with students. I’m amazed by how accommodating and kind the student volunteers were to my children. One, these college kids sacrificed one of their days of spring break to outreach with my students. Two, they were so welcoming and made my students feel comfortable to ask both science questions and college questions. Three, these college kids networked with structural/materials and mechanical/industrial professors to give my children student-friendly tours of engineering labs, q & a on the professors’ research, and words of wisdom.

Robots in EDT Lab

Robots in EDT Lab

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 12.10.55 AM

Top Left: Students learning about EDT and SHPE Top Right: SHPE volunteer coaches team of students to build a robot spider. Bottom Left: Professor Abiade answers questions about his lab. Bottom Right: Professor Issa gives inspiration about working hard to accomplish goals.

I’m blown away by how wonderful the opportunity was for my students. I mean, my babies were asking scientists awesome higher order thinking questions related to concrete mixing and testing, oxide labs, elements, programming code, etc.

“At first I was interested in computer science, but after going to the concrete lab I think I might want to be a civil engineer. The concrete lab was awesome!” – 7th grader

Send an email or two to a local university in your area to promote college and career readiness. Give your students authentic experiences with higher education and spark their interest in something new. This was truly a rewarding experience for both my students and me.

Ms. G



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