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Sakimoto Iya09


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Sakimoto Iya09

  1. 1. Preparing for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy ASP Conference Series, Vol. 400, c 2008 M. G. Gibbs, J. Barnes, J. G. Manning, and B. Partridge, eds. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities Philip J. Sakimoto,1 Velshonna Luckey,2 Randall H. Landsberg,3 Larry Hawkins,4 and Irene Porro5 Abstract. The International Year of Astronomy will attract much atten- tion, but what legacy will it leave for populations historically underrepresented in science? In this paper, we focus on one such population—urban youths— and ask how IYA activities might be designed to have a lasting impact. Our general premise is that a major event might be used to attract attention, but that a long-term follow up is necessary for genuine impact. We present three after-school and summer urban outreach programs that model such long-term involvement: the KICP Space Explorers Program, the MIT Kavli Youth As- tronomy Apprenticeship Program, and the Notre Dame Supernova Club. Each of these programs is deeply embedded within the community that it serves, and each of them shows great success in building interests and capabilities in science among the youths that participate. 1. Introduction Among the goals of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 is the mandate to “promote greater involvement by underrepresented minorities in scientific and engineering careers.” This is a major challenge. Impacting career choices and career successes requires close association with young people over long periods of time-periods measured in years rather than in days or weeks. High profile short-term IYA activities can be extremely useful for attracting initial attention and interest, but they must be coupled with long-term follow-up if the goal of launching careers is to be achieved. In this paper, we focus on three examples of urban science outreach programs that incorporate such long-term follow-up. The programs, developed collectively by the authors, are the MIT Kavli Institute Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship Program (Porro), the KICP Space Explorers Program (Landsberg and Hawkins), and the Notre Dame Supernova Club (Saki- moto and Luckey). Although these programs each run in different cities with different types of activities, the commonalities that we believe make them successful are remark- 1 Department of Physics, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA 2 Robinson Community Learning Center, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA 3 Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA 4 Office of Special Programs, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA 5 MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, 77 Massachusetts Avenue—NE80, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA 68
  2. 2. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities 69 able. Each program arose from and is run through partnerships that are firmly embedded within in the communities that they serve. Each program utilizes out-of-school time, taking advantage of the easy access it gives to large groups of urban youths. Each program engages the youths over long periods of time, hoping to maintain involvement with the participants through matriculation into college. Each program sets high standards for behavior and performance. And, we think, not coincidentally, each program is proving to be highly successful. 2. Making Use of Accumulated Wisdom The insights that led to these program commonalities are not new. They are well known to those who are familiar with successful youth outreach and minority access programs and with effective practices that support learning in out-of- school time. The benefits of using out-of-school time for education and youth develop- ment are promoted in the work of the National AfterSchool Association1 , the education policies of the NASA Science Mission Directorate2 , and the recent plans for a first-ever National Conference on Science & Technology in Out-of- School Time 3 . When working with underserved communities in underutilized subject areas such as science, the potential benefits of using out-of-school time are substantial. Working parents want to see their children’s out-of-school time used effectively, and community leaders perceive the potential career opportu- nities in science and technology. What they need are effective ways to bring science into community out-of-school settings. A number of studies have laid out strategies for effective use of out-of- school time when working with youths in urban areas. McLaughlin (2000) sug- gests that successful youth programs are Youth-centered, Knowledge-centered, Assessment-centered, and Community-centered. Benson and Saito (2000) view the term youth development as connoting “a focus on supporting or promoting, during the second decade of life, the positive developmental processes that are known or assumed to advance health and well-being.” These processes, they note, “include such multidimensional domains as competence, mastery, positive identity, resilience, caring, connection and belonging.” The Building Engineer- ing and Science Talent Initiative (BEST 2004) has found that best practices include having clearly defined outcome goals; being persistent in the face of setbacks; personalizing activities through student-centered teaching and hon- oring individual differences; incorporating challenging content that relates to career opportunities; and having adults who are fully engaged in multiple roles as teachers, coaches, mentors, tutors, and counselors. In short, effective out-of-school time programs follow the belief that the ex- periences a person has within a learning environment need to be viewed within the larger context of the person’s total life experience and learning. When we fo- 1 2 3
  3. 3. 70 Sakimoto et al. cus on astronomy and informal science education, we must move beyond content area knowledge and skill acquisition. We must support individuals holistically, incorporating science into the totality of their development toward becoming responsible, contributing adults. And, as other studies remind us (Jolly, Camp- bell, & Pearlman 2004; National Research Council 2008), we must incorporate “continuity”—the act of sustaining student interest over time—into our pro- grams. 3. The MIT Kavli Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship Program The Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship (YAA) is an out-of-school time initiative to foster science learning among urban teenage youth and their communities. The goal of YAA is to broaden the awareness of science learning as an effec- tive way of promoting overall youth development and of providing competitive professional opportunities. YAA staff first develop partnerships with profession- als at community-based centers to create a mutual understanding of goals and expectations for the program. They then engage high school age youths in an after-school astronomy-training program. After the training is completed, the successful participants become astronomy apprentices who work with educators and other professionals to create astronomy outreach initiatives directed at their own communities. Through the youths’ work and their presence among their communities as science ambassadors, YAA aims to promote involvement and support for science learning among underrepresented communities. YAA is a collaboration of the MIT Kavli Institute (MKI), the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), the Timothy Smith Network (TSN), and the Institute of Learning Innovation (ILI). 3.1. Core Idea YAA is based on two key understandings: 1. For science learning to have a lasting impact on the life of a teenage youth, it has to be personally meaningful: it has to be integrated with the youth’s personal development process. From this point of view, YAA seeks to em- power teens to develop new science understanding along with the personal and interpersonal skills needed to fully participate in the life of our society. 2. For populations historically underrepresented in science, it is important to foster an environment that supports the pursuit of STEM learning and STEM careers. To do so, YAA reaches out to the families of participants and also to the local urban communities to which the YAA teens belong. Indeed, through the community outreach work of the youths involved in YAA, we aim to engage all YAA audiences (families, other teens, and community-based organizations) in science learning experiences, and we hope that they will eventually become advocates for new STEM learning initiatives in their communities. Youths begin their association with YAA through an after-school compo- nent. After successfully completing this component, they become eligible to
  4. 4. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities 71 attend the summer apprenticeship program at MIT that is the core element of the YAA model. In the summer program, the youths work on astronomy con- tent, train in a variety of other disciplines, and develop original activities to be performed at community outreach events. In summer 2007, YAA teens wrote and produced a play on the life cycles of stars, designed activities introducing lay audiences to the use of the telescope, and created three components for a professional museum exhibit on black holes. In summer 2008, they will work on a new play, and they will create planetarium shows that they will present at various venues using a portable planetarium. In addition, they will create their own advertising campaign to promote their community outreach events and to recruit new youths for the next year’s YAA after-school program. 3.2. Science learning integrated with positive youth development The YAA summer program is a real apprenticeship in that actual professionals train and work with the YAA youths. Here are a few examples. Last year, YAA started a very effective collaboration with a local theater company, the Underground Railway Theater (URT). URT mentors work not only with YAA youths involved in the science theater project, but also with the whole YAA group. They help the youths practice public speaking skills, gain confidence in communicating to large audiences, and learn story-telling skills. Last summer, the youths working on the Black Hole museum exhibit met several times with the staff of Jeff Kennedy Associates. The professionals not only showed them the “behind the scenes” world of a museum exhibit, but they also introduced them to the organizational and planning skills required to put together an initiative like a museum exhibit. This year, YAA youth will work with a professional from the field of marketing and advertising to learn some of the foundations of the advertising profession as a prelude to creating their own advertising campaign. To do so, YAA youths will need to learn how to clearly identify their audience, how to present their product, how to communicate their message, and how to organize their work to produce an effective campaign. By weaving science learning together with the practical aspects of a range of professions, the youths develop a specific sense of ownership of their work that, in turn, makes them particularly attentive to the science content they are communicating. 3.3. Youth as agents of change By the end of the summer apprenticeship, YAA youths are ready to perform their presentations and/or activities at various venues in their communities. The main players in these events are urban teenagers. As such they are able to communicate to their peers and to adults in their communities a much more effective message about the value of science literacy than can be offered by the traditional science outreach establishment. Some of youths are also willing to take a major role in the YAA program itself. After completing the summer apprenticeship, they are eligible to apply for paid positions with MKI as youth assistants for the YAA after-school programs. In our experience this has been the most important and rewarding phase of the whole YAA program. With additional training and mentorship by YAA staff, the youths gradually feel empowered to share their learning about and passion for science with their peers. As they grow in these roles, they realize the challenge
  5. 5. 72 Sakimoto et al. Figure 1. A YAA apprentice explains his black hole model to visitors at the Cambridge Science Festival 2008. involved in facilitating somebody else’s learning experience. But, at the same time, they experience the rewarding feeling of helping others to move forward. With surprise, they may find themselves being identified as role models (“I want to be like you” a YAA assistant was told by one of his class mates). These young ambassadors of science prove with their own experience—and the benefits they gain from it—that following one’s personal interest in science outside of the classroom is actually “OK,” and that it can be a rewarding and exhilarating experience. Our youth assistants are now part of the YAA team, coming back for a second summer. They are planning to engage in more advanced projects and to take on more teaching responsibilities next year. It is not a large group of teens, but we understand now that to promote real change among youth from underrepresented communities, our education and mentoring effort has to work deep and last long. 4. The KICP Space Explorers Program The Space Explorers Program is a long-lived collaboration at the University of Chicago between a community partner, the Office of Special Programs (OSP), and an academic group, the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics that uses astronomy as a hook to engage urban youth in long-term science enrichment pro- gramming. The programming involves over 100 contact hours each year and the participants, typically 30 local middle and high school students, remain in the
  6. 6. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities 73 Figure 2. Children operate a robotic telescope over the Internet under the guidance of a YAA apprentice. program for multiple years. Founded in 1991, this partnership has endured for over 17 years. It is highly successful for the students—graduates matriculate in college as science majors at a rate that is five times better than that predicted by combined national and Chicago Public Schools statistics—and it helps par- ticipating scientists improve their communications skills. The program specifics and its outcomes are described in greater detail below. However, it is informative to first examine the partnership that makes this program work. 4.1. The Partnership A critical factor in the success of this program is that is it grounded in a genuine collaboration. Working together, OSP and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics4 via the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP) are able to create a program that is much more powerful than either could produce individually. OSP has deep roots in the community and is the conduit to the students and their families. OSP staff are in the schools, at community meetings, in churches, and on the athletic fields casting a broad net to find students who might be interested in science enrichment programs but who might not normally 4 From its inception the Space Explorers program has been under the auspicious of the Depart- ment of Astronomy & Astrophysics, however it was initially a part of the Center for Astro- physical Research in Antarctica, CARA, and since 2001 the program has become a signature program of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP).
  7. 7. 74 Sakimoto et al. Figure 3. KICP Space Explorers measure the Cosmic Microwave Back- ground (CMB) radiation as the culmination of a year-long investigation into temperature. gravitate to them. OSP’s philosophy is holistic, focusing on the full person: behavior, commitment, study habits, etc. OSP’s long standing in the community also helps engage the students’ families, a critical element of the Space Explorers Program. The Department and KICP provide many resources including the use of undergraduate science laboratories on campus and the historic Yerks Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin; a staff member devoted full time to education and outreach; and significant financial support through grants. More importantly, KICP provides the scientific personalities and expertise that cannot be found in a typical K–12 setting. Since 2001, more than 45 researchers have taught in residence at the Yerkes Institutes, with many of them doing so multiple times. Both partners obviously gain from participating in this collaboration, but more importantly both sides recognize the contribution of the other, trust the other, and regularly communicate with the other. This strong working relationship has proven critical to the program and helped to create continuity as well as longevity. 4.2. Space Explorers Program Overview The Space Explorers Program connects local, underrepresented minority stu- dents with the university astronomy research community. Participant selection is based on interest and commitment rather than abilities, and astronomy is a topic to which students seem naturally attracted. This inherent interest is easy to leverage into broader scientific investigations (e.g., recycling) that, in turn, help to maintain student involvement. By immersing students in the process
  8. 8. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities 75 of doing science, we hope to increase their interests and abilities in science and math and help them succeed in high school and beyond.5 The Space Explorers Program seeks to profoundly change the lives of inner city youth and to inspire them to pursue scientific careers. This is achieved by engaging the students in multi-year, multidimensional commitments. Students participate in weekly hands-on, in-depth laboratory sessions, residential science institutes at Yerkes Observatory, visits to research labs, and enrichment field trips, including monthly visits to the Adler Planetarium. Occasionally older students are placed as interns in research laboratories. Perhaps more important than the science content that these experiences offer are the relationships with researchers that develop and the thought processes the students see modeled. Figure 4. Students and Instructors at the KCIP Yerkes Summer Institute. 5 For more details on the Space Explorers Program and an archive of activities see http://kicp.
  9. 9. 76 Sakimoto et al. 4.3. Outcomes and Comparisons In the six years since 2001, when KICP made Space Explorers a signature pro- gram, all 50 students in the six cohorts finishing the program have graduated from high school and gone on to college. More than half of them are majoring in a science, math, engineering, or technology (SMET) field, and ten percent of them are majoring in a physical science. Of the fourteen Space Explorer alumni who graduated high school in 2002 and 2003, nine (64%) have graduated from college, seven (50%) have obtained SMET degrees, one (7%) has obtained a Physical Science degree, and seven (50%) have enrolled in graduate programs of which four (57%) are SMET programs. This is a sharp contrast to the norm for students in the Chicago Public School System, where only six percent of the students beginning high school get a college degree by their mid-20’s, and only three percent of African-American and Latino male high school freshmen obtain a bachelor’s degree by the time they’re 25 (Roderick et al. 2006; Cohen & Little 2006). It is also far above the national statistics for African Americans, of whom only 2.7 percent obtain degrees in the Natural Sciences or Engineering by the time they are 24 (National Science Board 2002). The outcomes for the participating researchers are harder to quantify. Self- reporting indicates improved teaching and communication skills. Interestingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that skills acquired working with the Space Explor- ers translated especially well into delivering successful big picture job talks. 5. The Notre Dame Supernova Club The University of Notre Dame’s Supernova Club is a fledgling experiment based on the hypothesis that in every community, no matter how “disadvantaged,” a certain fraction of youths will show strong interests in and aptitudes for science if only they are given a chance. The target audience is youths living in the most economically depressed areas of South Bend, Indiana. Almost all of the participants are from below poverty-level families and are eligible for free lunch. Most of them are underrepresented minorities. The basic idea was to embed science in an existing large community program serving this population, and, from that initial exposure, to recruit a small cohort of youths for a long-term, year-round follow-up program in astronomy. After only one year, their progress has been spectacular. We attempt to describe here the ingredients that led to this success. 5.1. Origins in Community Needs The Supernova Club arose from a community crisis. Cuts in Federal funding were threatening the future of the long-standing National Youth Sports Program (NYSP). At the University of Notre Dame, NYSP had been bringing hundreds of 10 to 16 year-old youths from low-income neighborhoods to campus each summer for an extended day camp focused on health, nutrition, physical fitness, and basic academic support. In community meetings on how to restructure the local program, the idea arose to take this as an opportunity to raise the program’s sights. The program’s ultimate goal should be to see that at least some of the
  10. 10. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities 77 participants are capable of being admitted to and succeeding at a highly selective university like Notre Dame. We envisioned using the summer as a time to purposefully expose hundreds of program participants to a wide variety of possible new interest areas—a dif- ferent one each year. Astronomy, with its potentially broad appeal, was picked as the focus area for a first pilot year. During the summer we would do ac- tivities that would expose all participants to astronomy. We would use these activities as a means of surfacing participants with strong interests in and high potential for science. We would then put those participants in a year-round follow-up program aimed at developing and nurturing their interests and capa- bilities. We would seek NASA space science EPO funding to support the science activities and, not incidentally, help bring solely needed new financial resources to the overall program. Since several NASA research grants for which EPO sup- plements could be proposed were readily available, and since all three of these grants happened to deal with some aspect of supernovae, we decided to focus the astronomy activities on supernovae and the life cycles of stars. Thus, the Supernova Club was born. 5.2. Embedded Science From a science educator’s point of view, the advantage of working with NYSP is that it provided a proven structure for all of the program logistics. Recruitment, transportation, food, discipline, schedules, space, communications with families, crisis intervention, and a wealth of other details were handled entirely the ex- isting NYSP staff. From the NYSP Director’s point of view, the arrangement brought science into the program without the need to find additional funding or to train staff in how to teach science. It was a definite win-win situation, but it was not without problems. For the scientist, dealing with students who were, in general, not interested, not present by choice, and not accustomed to science or inquiry-based activi- ties was a major challenge. Having seasoned NYSP staff and teachers in the room at all times was a major help. For NYSP, accustomed to making con- stant on-the-fly adjustments in response to unpredictable student and family needs, accommodating the needs of science activities for regular attendance and predictable scheduling was a major challenge. Patience and perseverance was required of all concerned. The science itself was not new. Highly regarded activities from readily available sources (Fraknoi 1995; Universe! 2003) were adopted and adapted to this situation. In rotating sessions, each group of students received six contact hours of a basic orientation to the solar system and stars and an introduction to stellar life cycles. What was new was using specially tailored live presentations in Notre Dame’s Digital Visualization Theater (DVT) for some of this instruc- tion. Participants generally regarded presentations in the DVT as “cool,” but their attentiveness was still poor. However, despite appearances to the contrary, something significant was happening. Pre- and post-tests showed that over the summer, overall interests in and understanding of science increased by about 20 percent. However, interest in actually being a scientist decreased by 16 per- cent. Prophetically, the external evaluator noted that “this entrenched attitude
  11. 11. 78 Sakimoto et al. Figure 5. Supernova Club members show off their cardboard tube telescopes. [against being a scientist] may take more than one summer to change” (Coshow 2007). 5.3. Nurturing Future Scientists The biggest impact of the summer program came when, at its close, we asked the participants if they would like to apply to be part of an on going, after- school astronomy club. Some 20 percent of them said they would like to join—a percentage that we suspect is not much different than what you would get from a random sample of youths in any community in America. Also in accord with what one typically finds nationwide, those who wanted to participate were all relatively young (ages 9 to 12). None of the older students (ages 14 to 16) wanted to participate. After applying filters for genuine interest, parental support, and commitment to regular attendance, 13 of applicants were made charter members of the Supernova Club. For the school year program, a new partnership was formed. Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center, conveniently located within the commu- nity, agreed to provide space in their building, handle all logistics, and, most importantly, assign their Associate Director of Children’s Programs to serve as the lead in-house manager. The importance of having a seasoned youth program director with strong ties to the community cannot be overemphasized. Although her official duties were administration and logistics, her experience and instincts
  12. 12. Building an IYA Legacy for Underserved Communities 79 told her to add in youth development. She gave frequent mini-sermons on a wide variety of life issues, talked regularly with the parents, and made sure that the students understood that they were getting a once in a lifetime opportunity. We held frequent Family Nights, purposefully choosing speakers who would help raise the participants’ level of comfort with science. An African American theologian, minister, and Notre Dame Dean talked about African Americans in science. An African American undergraduate summer physics student shared her contagious enthusiasm for physics. Unspoken fears that “people who look like me don’t do science” evaporated without ever being directly addressed. Figure 6. The life cycles of stars were the central theme for Supernova Club activities. Experienced science teachers from local community schools were recruited to help out. Their presence was necessary to help translate activities into terms that the youths could grasp. An effective pattern soon emerged. At each meeting, the scientist would introduce and motivate the activity in the context of the broader picture of astronomy, a teacher would lead students through the hands- on portion of the activity, and then the scientist would lead a summing up discussion that connected the hands-on activity to the real astronomical objects. Open question and answer sessions between club members and the scientist invariably erupted and were often the most engaging part of the entire session. Career development received continual and conscious attention. It was sim- ply assumed that all of the participants would get doctoral degrees in science. So, everything they heard was in the language of “when you go to graduate school,”
  13. 13. 80 Sakimoto et al. or “after you get your doctorate.” The word “if” was never breathed. All scien- tists who interacted with the participants were purposefully addressed formally as “Dr. ,” keeping the idea of doctoral degrees in everyone’s minds. The unheralded perks of being a scientist were also revealed. Hearing about fully paid opportunities in graduate school, comfortable pay as a professional scien- tist, and opportunities to travel around the world were all eye-openers for Club members The science activities mostly followed the Afterschool Universe (see Krish- namurthi et al., in this volume, or Field trips to the Notre Dame DVT, the Notre Dame Nuclear Structures Laboratory, and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago were also incorporated. By years’ end there were noticeable gains in understanding and interest in science, but there was still a need for greater retention, depth of understanding, and ability to syn- thesize knowledge. These are points to be addressed in future years. For now, the important point is that the Club members’ overall behavior and interest in learning at Club meetings, at school, and at home all improved remarkably. Attendance at meetings was nearly 100 percent, and attrition over the course of the year was zero. The number of Club members (responding to surveys) who want to be scientists went from 2 out of 10 at the beginning of summer to 10 out of 11 at year’s end. A fertile ground for more in-depth science activities in subsequent years has clearly been laid. 6. Putting It All Together Together, the outreach programs described here tell a remarkable story. It is possible to generate interest and engagement in science within even the most disadvantaged communities, and it is possible to launch underrepresented mi- norities into success in SMET fields at the college level. The ingredients for doing so are relatively simple: maintaining long-term contact with participants, integrating science with broader activities of interest; including purposeful whole life development; relying on community leaders for access, logistics, and com- munications; including families; using out-of-school time; and, above all, having and maintaining high expectations for success. What is difficult is taking the time to assemble all of these ingredients in one place, and to sustain them over time. Acknowledgments. We are pleased to acknowledge the following sources of support for the outreach programs discussed here. MIT Kavli Institute Youth Astronomy Apprenticeship Program: NSF Grant 0610350 (Informal Science Ed- ucation). Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics Space Explorers Program: NSF grants PHY-0114422 and PHY-0551142 (Physics Frontier Centers). Notre Dame Supernova Club: NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute, AURA grant HST-EO-10934.03-A (Hubble Space Telescope Cycle 15 EPO Supplements). We gratefully acknowledge the many parents, community leaders, scientists, and youth participants who have contributed immensely to the success of these pro- grams.
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