Kids Whose Action Plans Are Changing STEAM Education

Education in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) is vitally important. The job world is increasingly focused around those areas, so families should take advantage of resources that help their kids develop their skills and interests in those areas. Locally, the SciTech Institute offers a ton of STEAM-related resources for families to explore.

SciTech Institute is a non-profit that is dedicated to enhancing and promoting STEM engagements for everyone in the community. Throughout the month of February, the SciTech Festival will bring a series of over 1,000 expos, workshops, conversations, exhibitions, and tours to diverse neighborhoods throughout the state.

Another effort of SciTech Institute is the Chief Science Officer (CSO) program, which seeks to enhance the workforce and employability skills of student CSOs and their peers. CSOs champion communication, interest, and engagement in STEAM, and bring youthful innovation to their campuses and communities. Programming includes leadership training and creating and executing action plans, which are STEAM engagement opportunities that reflect their peers’ interests.

The CSO program is all about student voice, so rather than having an adult describe the program and its impact, two local students have written about their experiences. See how much students can accomplish when given meaningful support and the freedom to pursue their ideas!

Shirley, Senior at Desert Vista High School in Tempe

When I was younger, I was naturally inclined to gravitate toward STEM classes and topics. I love puzzles, and math was my favorite subject because of its problem-solving aspect. I loved combining the two and doing math puzzles, where you had to detect a pattern in a sequence of numbers or find what the probability was to get an even number every time you threw the dice.

My interest in math coupled with my involvement in the arts served as the catalysts to the launch of my origami hobby. I spent hours folding various models, particularly taking a liking to geometric ones. My favorite forms of origami are modular origami and tessellations. Modular origami is where multiple identical units are folded and then interlocked together to create a geometric structure without any glue or tape. Tessellations are numerous geometric shapes repeated on a sheet of paper without any gaps or overlap between the shapes. Origami became my “thing” that I wanted to continue and share with others.

Throughout my high school career, I have created STEAM initiatives to provide students

with ample resources and lessons on STEAM. For example, I founded a program at my local library where I worked with two other CSOs to perform STEAM-onstrations like “How to Make Slime” or “The Properties of Oobleck.” We loved doing experiments with younger kids as they were all very intrigued by the experiments. They constantly asked questions about how things worked or what the science was behind the experiments. Parents became involved as well, so we gave them booklets that described how to do various experiments at home.

I also created a TV program at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital to teach patients math

using origami. The effect of this program is two-fold: origami serves as a form of art relief therapy for patients, while at the same time teaching them geometrical concepts such as right triangles and acute angles. I also intend to continue teaching origami to elementary schoolers, as I believe elementary school is the perfect time to get kids thinking about STEM not from a strictly technical point of view, but also from a visual and artistic point of view. This change in perspective leads them to be more flexible and better problem-solvers in the future because they can approach topics from a multitude of ways.

My journey with STEAM is nowhere near complete. I aim to keep advocating for STEAM (hopefully in front of legislators!) and expanding my adventures in the realm of STEAM.

Right now, I have an internship working in the CSO program. During this internship, I hope to improve networking and persuasion skills, building and strengthening connections with prominent industry officials from notable corporations. I also would like to build my planning abilities by creating events like summits and festivals. I’m looking forward to working with organizations like the AZ Science Center, the public libraries and the Boys and Girls Club to develop effective materials for raising the level of students’ STEAM Education.

Nikhil, Sophomore at North High School in Phoenix, Chief Science Officer for 3 years

I am a huge lover of science, especially due to my mother who has worked as a nurse; she’s demonstrated her perseverance and dedication during this pandemic.

The literal definition of a Chief Science Officer is being a student ambassador for STEAM at your school where you can help make decisions for STEAM initiatives; however, it has been so much more for me. The concept of student voice is so important to kindle because it’s a perspective that you can never really reach again once you are an adult.

You only know what it’s like to be a kid when you are a kid, and even then, it is constantly changing. The CSO program has been a key catalyst in the objective to understand what kids will like and learn from. By merging two contrasting worlds of students and the adults, it has helped to reduce the hierarchy of power and raise diverse and inclusive ideas. It has not only pushed students to find their place and voice, but also pushed adults to listen to ideas that can introduce forgotten or overlooked solutions. I’ve seen how the CSO program creates a win for both sides, and its development has already changed the lives of many.

Just as the program will always be growing and advancing, I have also grown over time. To begin, when it comes to my academic studies, I have learned the importance of taking risks and seeking discomfort. I always had this weird obsession with grades and making sure everything was perfect, but I quickly learned from this program that I should be okay with failure and taking risks. Despite how scary they might be, they could bear fruit to an opportunity I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

This slowly seeped into my personal life too. I’ve noticed how I was choosing to become more open with others, putting aside my sub-conscious efforts to be contemplative about every decision. A D.I.S.C. personality test I took in my second year of the program had really shown me how I was adapting myself to be enthusiastic, friendly, and optimistic and growing an engaging personality among people. I’m learning to be more of an extrovert with the help of the program. This proved helpful in putting myself out there for school, in CSO opportunities, and even with my friends and family.

I used these new skills in developing action plans. I started an event that exposed people to STEAM careers in their community and created an experience where students approaching career-exploration were able to apply, practice interviewing, and work in jobs across Arizona pertaining to different letters of STEAM.

This year, to overcome the constraints of COVID, I have been working to use the real-world to reach students that may not have originally been interested in STEAM. For example, I started an environmental club at my school using some outside connections.

Finally, I have also been able to work closely with a small group of CSOs in launching the official CSO YouTube channel that we call “Perspective with CSO Cyra.” As the name suggests, we hope to really dive deep into the different views of the STEM world and provide a voice to those who don’t already have one. The cool thing about it all, it’s a show for students, by students. The producer, director, editor (me), and other vital positions are held by CSOs across the United States! Despite the circumstances, we have really worked together to bear fruit of our friend Cyra’s awesome action plan.

Personally, I cannot wait for the future of these different action plans that I have simply lit a fire for. I can’t wait to see the bright minds that come together when I am off to college and am no longer a CSO and see how they continue to kindle the STEM Pathways event, the environmental club, or the Perspective channel in the future. I share these same thoughts about the Chief Science Officer program. We have a lot of room to grow as CSOs and as humans, and I can’t wait to see what the next generation of leaders after me have to contribute to society. I genuinely believe that it will be good!

I have a message to all the parents that want to encourage and support their kids in STEAM and other subjects that they may be interested in. I have never experienced or have the smallest ounce of knowledge of being a parent, but I can say that I have 15 years of experience as a child. I highly encourage you to let your child have a passion on their own without interference. When kids are told to do something, they don’t like doing it anymore. Having them create their own connection between STEAM and their passion starts them on an awesome pathway for their future. Anything and everything in this world is like a puzzle that makes STEAM; finding how it all fits together is the first step to a life-long journey of passion.

There’s tangible excitement in these two youth and many others in dozens of CSO regions around the world. Listen to the kids: let your children find and explore their passions and support them along the way. To find out if there is a CSO program at your school (and if not, to start one!), visit ChiefScienceOfficers.org.

Submitted by Claire LaBeaux, Communications Director for the Chief Science Officers International, a program of the SciTech Institute. LaBeaux coaches student Chief Science Officers on engaging peers to pursue STEM education, as well as communicating with education administrators and regional and national policymakers. 

For more information on these SciTech institute resources, please visit:

scitechinstitute.org/resources

scitechinstitute.org/programs/scitech-festival-page

chiefscienceofficers.org

STEM at Every Age

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