Washington University Science Partnership Program – Building STEM career readiness in K-12 students

  • Project Description

    This project will equip teens with the skills to produce high quality, compelling health video content for the PBS NewsHour, local PBS stations and Student Reporting Labs (SRL) audiences, which will increase youth engagement with health sciences, including exposure to health science careers, through project-based learning resources that leverage storytelling and journalistic integrity. Building from previous SEPA research findings that showed success in a select number of journalism classes that produced health stories, SRL is ready to take our programming to the next level by working with STEM program leaders, educators and teens to create peer-to-peer STEM health reporting and educational resources supporting health literacy for a wide range of classrooms and STEM programs, focusing intentionally on strategies to include groups under-represented in STEM fields. This project will ultimately support hundreds of STEM educators and programs with the tools to communicate the value of health science, rebuild trust and introduce teens from diverse backgrounds to pathways for meaningful, lifelong engagement with health science issues, both as informed citizens able to combat misinformation and as the next generation of health professionals, in careers and contexts unimaginable today.

  • Abstract

    To maintain its status as the worldwide leader in research, the United States must realize the tremendous scientific power inherent within its diverse population. Currently, much of this potential, however, remains latent, as Black, Hispanic, and Native American students are underrepresented in college STEM majors, STEM PhD programs, the professoriate, and the STEM workforce. The creation of holistic K-12 programs that spark student interest in science, empower their academic pursuits, and provide them with bona fide research experiences is essential to enhance the migration of talented, STEM-focused, minoritized students into college STEM majors. Such efforts are critical for the U.S. to realize the immense latent scientific potential contained within its diverse population. By leveraging established partnerships with community K-12 organizations, and listening to the needs of our partners and their students, we have sculpted a new, integrated program that will provide holistic training and support to minoritized, low-income high school students to help them succeed in STEM. A key feature of our program is that we will leverage the interest and intellect of undergraduate, post-bac, and PhD students in the diversity-focused programs we run to ensure that high school students are mentored by STEM role models who look like them.

    Aim 1: To create educational programs that address partner-identified STEM education gaps and to determine if student participation in these programs increases science literacy, scholastic success, college matriculation, and motivation to pursue scientific careers relative to non-participating students. We hypothesize these activities will have strong, positive impact on students because we are addressing specific needs defined by their educational organizations. Aim 2: To determine whether the context in which research experiences are delivered impacts motivation to enter STEM fields. We hypothesize that, in our student population, research experiences focused on health disparities that disproportionately affect Black people will be more motivating for long-term scientific engagement compared with similar research projects that lack this societal context.

    We partner with Jennings High School, The Sophia Project, and The Village. The demographics of our partners resemble those of the Jennings School District, where over 98% of the students are Black, all qualify for the Free Federal Lunch program, and 38% of school age children live in poverty. At Jennings, high school graduation rates exceed 90%, but less than half of these students enter a two- or four-year college. Most students lack academic/STEM role models as well as opportunities to learn about and pursue an interest in STEM. Our program then possesses immense potential to positively impact the confidence and college and career choice of these students and thus help diversify the next generation of scientists.