Sarah Cheney/ August 25, 2020/ K-12 Education, Uncategorized

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Starting in May 2017, STEM Santa Fe has spearheaded STEM Scaffold Santa Fe, a collaborative working group of educational and youth development groups working together to recruit, train and place local STEM college students and STEM professionals in sustained high school mentorship programs. Our mission is to see that every Santa Fe high school student has the preparation necessary to succeed in a STEM college/certificate program. The program delivers compelling STEM projects teaching students, in an integrated problem-based fashion while leaving plenty of room for student creativity and collaboration.

We draw bright caring STEM mentors from the students at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC), Northern New Mexico College, and St. John’s College. Local STEM professionals are recruited through networking and collaborations with organizations such as LANL Community Partnership Office, Northern New Mexico College, Santa Fe Public Schools, and Santa Fe Community College. We train and place these mentors and volunteers in a fashion designed to challenge each high school student to think critically about their aptitude for and attitude towards higher education in general and STEM in particular. We deliver this challenge through weekly, hands-on, mentor lead, small group work.

In the academic school year of 2018-2019 with a small grant from Opportunity Santa Fe and LANL Foundation, we ran a pilot program at Capital High School with 53 students. In the academic school year of 2019-2020, with an Impact Grant from Anchorum St. Vincent and support from Opportunity Santa Fe, we continued the program with the same cohort of students from the previous year and expanded to a new cohort, impacting a total of 105 students. Our 2019-2020 projects included building 20 Arduino-controlled Laser Harps (where breaking a laser beam produces sound) and 18 desktop-sized Arduino-controlled Smart Greenhouses (where humidity, temperature, and water levels were monitored and controlled the operation of a window, fan, and water pump).

Our main goal is to increase the interest of Capital High School students in STEM courses and the number of students who will take dual credit classes at SFCC in STEM subjects. Another secondary goal is by training and embedding college students as STEM mentors, it will increase the likelihood of their own graduation with a college degree or certification.

Volunteers were STEM professionals and were very much present every week and worked side by side with the college student mentors. This proved to be very valuable to the college student mentors. In addition, the STEM Professionals gave us valuable feedback during and following the project on the curriculum and supplemented the manual with more guidance and documentation.

“I observed students had a shift in growth-mindset toward STEM because this would be their third STEM project in two years. They no longer hesitated to cut wires and plug them into breadboards. They were familiar with the parts and knew what they were called which helped ease communication. I saw many more smiles and much less furrowed brows.” -Karen Squires – Teacher of AVID Junior class at Capital High School.

The following are quotes selected from various student essays:

  • “This relates a lot in life it shows us not to give up on anything even if it’s the hardest thing in the world give it a try, it won’t hurt you.”
  •  “I did many new things that I wasn’t really comfortable doing and I learned that I am quite good at it.”
  • “I was able to calm myself during frustrating situations and take leadership to figure out what we did wrong and fix the problem.”
  • “There was definitely a rewarding feeling at the end of each step, which would also motivate us to keep pushing through the project and to actually want to create a working laser harp. “

This was a successful program by all indicators. It is unfortunate that it had to be cut a bit short of celebrating the final projects because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Many thanks to the CWG members that made this program successful:

Steve Cox, Engineering Professor, Northern New Mexico College

Emma Kimball, SFCC intern with PILAS program

Lina Germann, CEO, STEM Santa Fe

Karen Squires, AVID Teacher at Capital High School

Maaite Girdner, AVID Teacher at Capital High School

Danika Padilla and Craig McAdams from Meow Wolf, Santa Fe Community College faculty Charlie Shultz and Colleen Lynch, Sonya Gunter with Santa Fe Public Schools, and Rebecca Estrada with LANL Community Partnerships Office.

This 2019-2020 program could not be possible without the generous grant by ANCHORUM ST. VINCENT.

STEM Santa Fe advocates for, develops and provides
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programming, mentoring and resources
for all youth, especially those who are under-represented in STEM,
to realize their potential and expand their opportunities in our dynamic world.

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