Empowering K-5 teachers of low-income students of color to incorporate STEM in their classrooms
The University of Southern California's Joint Educational Project's STEM Education Programs (Young Scientists Program, Medical STEM Program, and Wonderkids) are a model of how to support teachers in low-income K-5 schools. The programming it offers at no cost to the partner schools includes curriculum that is inquiry-based, hands-on and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) focused. The programs aim to address a critical lack of science education in JEP partner schools by recruiting STEAM undergraduate and graduate students to serve as Teaching Assistants (TA's) who, under the direction of the Director of STEM Education and individual Site Coordinators, bring scientific laboratory experiences directly to students and their teachers. We work with over 80 teachers weekly (2500 K-5 students predominately from underserved backgrounds racially and economically) with this program and provide all of the NGSS aligned- curriculum, supplies and a science instructor for them to have successful inquiry-based and hands-on STEM experiences inside and outside their classroom. We also provide countless STEM-based professional development (PD) opportunities for teachers through varying grants and in partnership with the Rossier School of Education are able to offer continuing educational units (CEU's) for those participating in the PD sessions. We have seen our teachers grow more confident in teaching science in their classrooms following our programming and PD's. We level the playing field in STEM for elementary teachers that work in schools that serve predominantly low-income students of color. Many of our teachers, especially at the K-3 level don't feel comfortable teaching science and they end up skipping it to focus solely on math and reading. We empower teachers to incorporate STEM into their classrooms by providing everything they need to feel comfortable teaching science to their students. We'd love to share our model with the world.
Video was edited and put together by Josh Senior. All students and adults in the video have provided media release forms to our organization.
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Share your thoughts
Science IS the Future!
This is a very important topic that is frequently ignored or pushed aside! Pre-service is where it starts so that K-5 teachers are comfortable stepping into the classroom with STEM skills and experiences READY TO USE DAY 1!
Watch AND COMMENT on:
Huffman High School: Empowering STEM Educational Leaders
Candyce A. Curry
In reply to Science IS the Future! by CANDYCE CURRY
Thanks for your comment…
Thanks for your comment Candyce. I agree that preservice teachers should be supported within their training programs to include STEM and that admin support continuing that once they are in service teachers.
Your program/project is very similar to WVDE/WVU STEAM TAC. I find the program to be very inspiring and helpful to teach my special education students. I love the lessons and interaction involved!
In reply to Thank You! by Diana Aston
Thanks for your comment…
Thanks for your comment Diana. I will take a look into the programs you mentioned. Do you have any links?
Share your success and favorites
Thank you for giving the elementary teachers the professional development they need to feel confident and excited about STE(A)M! Looking at some of the links you provided, I wonder, which program has been the most successful? What has made it so successful?
In reply to Share your success and favorites by Elegan Kramer
Great question Elegan. Each…
Great question Elegan.
Each program is successful in different ways. In terms of impact and scale, I’d recommend looking at the Young Scientists Program.
In reply to Great question Elegan. Each… by Dieuwertje Kast
Thanks Dr. DJ!
Thanks, I will! :)
Thank you for sharing this…
Thank you for sharing this important work! It is inspiring and impressive to see how many students and teachers you are supporting and impacting.
In reply to Thank you for sharing this… by Kathryn Hobbs
I appreciate your kind words…
I appreciate your kind words, Kathryn. Thank you
Make STEM culturally relevant--yes!
What a great program your are offering to educators and students. Do you provide all the curriculum in paper or digital form? So you offer on site training for schools in your area?
In reply to Make STEM culturally relevant--yes! by Kathleen Donovan
We provide all the…
We provide all the curriculum in both digital and paper copies but focus on digital so we don’t kill too many trees.
During COVID our STEM staff digitized a lot of our curriculum and content for teachers and it’s accessible on our YouTube channel for other teachers to use. the link is below.
We do also offer both on site STEM trainings at schools and we often partner with STEM faculty within the university to translate their research into curriculum and then bring teachers to their labs to see the work in real life so they’d be more apt to understand why we set up the curriculum that way.
The Color of STEM
Thank you Dr. Kast for impacting the next STEM educators in an empowering approach of hands-on approach that creates ownership.
The Scholars and Teachers are fortunate to be apart of such great work.
Do you offer PD? If so can it be accessed virtually?
In reply to The Color of STEM by Ruth Ray, M.Ed.
Thanks for your kind words…
Thanks for your kind words Ruth. Yes we do offer PD’s virtually. It depends on what the teachers are requesting content wise.
What an amazing program! I have the same question as Ruth if you do this in other states? Do you offer PD for teachers that are not close by?
In reply to Amazing Work by Jennifer Donais
Our funding is limited to…
Our funding is limited to doing most of this work primarily in person in a small amount of schools. Our curriculum is shareable and on our YouTube channel - https://m.youtube.com/c/USCJEPSTEMPrograms
we could potentially figure out the logistics of an online PD.
Why do you think elementary…
Why do you think elementary teachers in CA do not feel as confident teaching science concepts? How can we as teacher leaders help elementary teachers seek out opportunities such as JEP to help them gain confidence in bringing inquiry to elementary classrooms?
In reply to Why do you think elementary… by GLORIA KREISCHER GAJEWICZ
Having been adjunct faculty…
Having been adjunct faculty for a teacher prep program, the elementary candidates only received 4 nights of instruction relating to science and NGSS out of a year long program. I worked to make my course more interdisciplinary so that math, reading and PE connections could all be made through the lens of STEM.
This is so important to…
This is so important to connect STEM with Literacy! I work with younger students as well, and feel that we need to harness their excitement for learning and the natural scientists that they are. Do you do any work with Pre-K students?
In reply to This is so important to… by Rebecca Cummings
We do have some kindergarten…
We do have some kindergarten curriculum yes but we haven’t ventured to the preschool level yet.
we have some videos on our public facing YouTube channel that may be of help.
Thank you so much for this important message about teachers in STEM/STEAM. The infusion of STEM in the classrooms is so essential for the strength of a STEM program. I loved hearing one of your teachers share that if she was excited then her students would be excited. I also love the connection with the science standards and literature. Students need to see themselves to be able to continue to pursue STEM.
Using Literature to Promote Equity in STEAM
In reply to Thank You by Florence Falatko
Thanks for your comments. I…
Thanks for your comments. I really enjoyed your literacy video as well. I saw so many parallels
What a great video infused with both the excitement of the learners along with hearing the instructors' perspectives! It was fantastic to see the kids doing work and their broad grins.
If you have measured success with this project, has there been any movement to expand this concept to other states and their university systems? I think that this type of joint effort would truly benefit the students but also their teachers.
Thanks for posting this!
In reply to Interesting ideas by Doug Hodum
We do have multiple measures…
We do have multiple measures of success but we are limited funding wise. I’d love to expand to more states.
Please pardon the delay in welcome message posting. I just gave birth to my daughter Athena last week Tuesday Nov 8th.
Welcome to my page. My bio relating to work is below:
Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast, Ed.D., is the Director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education Programs for the University of Southern California’s (USC) Joint Educational Project, which includes managing the Young Scientists Program. She has provided STEM instruction to over 29,000 underserved students, 900 educators, 20 school principals, and countless community members. She holds a doctorate in education, focusing on Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies in STEM at USC. She received her master’s degree in education and biology teaching credential from the USC Rossier School of Education and she received her bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master of Science in Marine Environmental Biology in 2011 from USC. Her mission is to level the playing field for underserved students in STEM. Her education philosophy is focused on hands-on, inquiry-based and authentic STEM learning experiences.
She also volunteers with EE Just- a program dedicated to bringing Black youth into marine biology and the USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative where she teaches research methods to first generation high school Latinx students with expeditions to Catalina Island and research symposiums. She is also the co-chair of the Expanding Audiences Committee of the National Marine Education Association since 2013. Her doctorate research was focused on preparing elementary school teachers how to integrate science and technology into their classrooms in a culturally relevant manner. She has also partnered with the Mayor's office Women in STEM Los Angeles (WiSTEM LA) group and has hosted events & programming for them and received funding for her educational equity work from the Los Angeles Mayor's office. She has also hosted Project Scientist, a summer science camp for girls at USC, and worked to include scholarships for low-income students of color to participate in the program. For her work in educational equity and DEI in STEM, she has received the Forbes 30 under 30 in Science Award in 2016, North American Association for Environmental Education “EE 30 under 30” Award in 2016, The National Association of Geoscience Teachers – Far Western Section (NAGT-FWS) Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award (2017), International STEM Education Association Mike Neden STEM Champion Award (2017), and the USC Rossier Second Century Alumni Award – an award for rising stars in their fields that support educational equity (2019). She has published in dozens of journals on culturally relevant STEM curriculum and instructional activities. Her work makes an impactful difference by leveling the playing field in STEM for low-income students of color in the Los Angeles area.