K-12 STEM Outreach: A New HOPE(S)

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Developing instructional STEM curricula for deaf students. Using sports to teach STEM concepts to high schoolers. Organizing a C.S.I.-themed research project for 5th graders. The eclectic range of projects being undertaken by this year’s batch of awardees from the ASBMB Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement with Science (HOPES) seed grant program showcases the myriad creative approaches to improve STEM education for K-12 students across the country. In 2015, the seed grant program received 27 applications, of which a total of nine were ultimately funded. To read more about this year’s HOPES recipients, click here.

Now in its fifth year, the goal of the HOPES program, which offers grants of up to $2000 for STEM partnerships between academic researchers and K-12 teachers, is to foster the development of sustained, mutually beneficial outreach partnerships that will enable educators and community leaders to leverage the resources and expertise of scientists from local colleges, universities, and industry as a means for engaging students and members of the public in active, stimulating, and informative STEM experiential learning activities, regardless of their background or level of experience.

This year saw the introduction of two new twists to the HOPES program. Awardees are now able to apply for a second year of funding from ASBMB, in order to help ensure the sustainability of their project. One of the main drawbacks pointed out by previous recipients was that, while the funds provided by HOPES were great for setting up a pilot project, ensuring that this project continued on in subsequent years was difficult without guaranteed funding support. Tacking on a second year to the award will help alleviate this issue by providing a short yet significant level of sustainability, thus allowing for buy-in from other potential stakeholders such as local companies and private foundations, or even school systems.

A second twist was holding the annual HOPES workshop outside of the confines of its traditional home within the Experimental Biology (EB) meeting, in order to increase the geographic diversity of HOPES participants beyond San Diego and Boston, which have between them hosted the past four EB meetings. This year, HOPES PI Regina Stevens-Truss led the interactive workshop, in which attendees hear from previous HOPES grant recipients and get a chance to network with potential partners, during the ASBMB Transforming Undergraduate Education in Molecular Life Sciences special symposium, held at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, MO.

Moving forward, the HOPES committee (Dr. Stevens-Truss, Dr. Peter Kennelly [Virginia Tech] and Dr. Ray Sweet [Janssen Pharmaceuticals, retired]) aims to expand the reach of the HOPES program by presenting the workshop in a diverse set of geographic locations and venues, including  meetings such as those for the National Science Teachers Association and National Association of Biology Teachers. The committee is also collaborating with a professional evaluator to assess the efficacy of the programs supported by the seeds grants, as well as the HOPES program overall. Moreover, the committee is constructing a public interactive network of former recipients, current awardees and potential applicants that will provide a platform for sharing of information, ideas, resources and opportunities. Currently included on this website are project descriptions and activity manuals that can be used by anyone to help enhance the STEM experience for their students.

As a model for improving the K-12 STEM educational experience, five years of the HOPES program has proven an unqualified success. The next five years promise even more.

Click here to see data from the past five years of the HOPES program

 

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