OBJECTIVES Our objectives are to:
bring the most exciting, cutting-edge science directly to underprivileged communities ensure the program has long term impact by involving the parents in the learning bring valuable social capital in the form of engineering mentors and role models to these communities.
THEORY FOR SOCIAL CHANGE "I can be an engineer". Through Iridescent's programs K-12 students realize that STEM careers are exciting, relevant and accessible to them.
"I can support my child's science education". Parents and other community members are encouraged to take ownership of the program, thereby giving them a chance to develop leadership skills and their sense of self and collective efficacy.
"My work inspires many". Engineers develop the ability to communicate complex ideas to the public. They also become active, long-term volunteers, bringing valuable social capital to high-need areas.
UNIQUE APPROACH Iridescent leverages two untapped resources, engineers and parents, to address the STEM achievement gap. Our engineers receive far more training - 32 classroom hours over 16 weeks - than do volunteers in other outreach programs. Iridescent provides multi-session courses to the same families year after year; this structure, in contrast to Family Science Nights and other one-off events, allows our engineers to form long-term mentoring relationships with students and their families. Iridescent empowers parents because, rather than having them be bystanders, we help them become successful participants, investors and leaders of the Family Science Program.
We also use distinctive approaches to make science uniquely exciting for students. Our courses feature cutting-edge technology in an engaging, applied story instead of focusing exclusively upon discrete, basic science concepts. For instance, families learn about magnetism and waves by understanding how these principles make an MRI machine work.
SYSTEMIC APPROACH We have established a synergistic partnership with University of Southern California (USC) through which engineering students receive three credit units for participating in the course "Engineers as Teachers". This course enables us to have regular access to student engineers and provides incentives for enrollment in our training program to deliver high-quality content. Engineers in turn learn to communicate complex concepts in engaging ways to large, diverse audiences. In addition we also collaborate with and train professional engineers from leading high-tech businesses such as AeroVironment and SolidWorks.
Community Co-Investing : Parents are invited to participate in a Parent Leadership Program that gives them the skills to take ownership, co-invest and lead the Family Science Courses. This opportunity enables them to develop and practice valuable skills of leadership and entrepreneurship in addition to helping them build their sense of self and collective efficacy.
The service learning model of engineers developing and teaching the inquiry-based courses enables high-quality, cutting-edge STEM content to be brought directly to the public in a scalable, sustainable way. During training engineers identify key ideas of their research, develop engaging presentations for a diverse audience and identify relevant inquiry-based, self-directed experiments that will help participants assume the role of a scientist and better understand the scientific process.
Engineers are given a lesson plan template that enables them to create a lesson that is engaging, inquiry-based, participant-directed and accessible to the audience. Engineers provide the basic content through a 15 minute direct instruction piece in which they introduce a few technical terms and one main concept such as reflection, frequency, lift or voltage. They rely heavily on videos and pictures to keep the content engaging and accessible. Following the direct instruction piece, the engineers outline the design challenge that will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the concept. Roughly 60% of the session time is then spent on designing and building the model. The remaining time is spent reflecting on the learning. The lesson plan template enables us to give full freedom to the engineers to select a topic of their choice and thus bring their undiluted passion to inspire the audience.
In order to increase parent-involvement, Iridescent must address three barriers: low education levels , language and logistical issues such as lack of time due to long working hours, multiple jobs or single parenthood . Iridescent overcomes parent's low education levels by designing materials that enable them to develop their own skills while facilitating their child's learning. The program design also encourages year after year participation, allowing the parents to grow their skills to match their child's grade level. The language barrier is addressed by providing bilingual materials, on-site translators and by communicating with adults via bilingual children. Logistical issues such as lack of time are mitigated by providing meals so that adults can free up the required time from preparing dinner, involving all the children to remove child care costs and by holding courses at convenient times and in safe, familiar locations (i.e. school sites).
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