During winter intersession, the six weeks between the fall and spring semester, approximately 350 students in the Citizen Schools’ California region completed an academically rigorous STEM curriculum challenge. The curriculum created and licensed by Tata Consultancy Services, allows students to design paper and electronic prototypes of an app that will help solve a community problem. During their challenge, they get the chance to practice their design thinking skills through a lens of empathy while learning about different STEM careers.
Erica Yoon, joined Citizen Schools after graduating from UC Berkeley with a Bachelors majoring in Cognitive Science Education minor. Serving as a AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow at Greenleaf K-8 Elementary School family in Oakland, California, she says “I love this job! It is definitely a position that comes with various challenges, but the relationships I make and the improvements I see on a daily basis keep me going.” Outside of work, she enjoys going for swims, playing Monopoly Deal, and singing karaoke.
An avid soccer player, Santy explained that the only reason he even heard about Menlo School, a private school in Atherton, was because of an after-school program, Citizen Schools, where he would wait out the gap of time between the end of school and the start of soccer practice and took an extracurricular course about local private school opportunities.
The California Community College Makerspace initiative (CCC Maker) has partnered with the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) to present make/SHIFT -- the Makerspace Ecosystem Summit in Irvine, CA on April 24-26. Registration is open for make/SHIFT and early bird discounts are available through February 28.
At Citizen Schools, no role is more essential to the success of our students than that of the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow. Citizen Schools National Teaching Fellows create extraordinary enrichment and academic support experiences for the students we serve the nation. On a daily basis, Fellows deepen connections between schools and parents, help to develop social-emotional skills through mentoring and coaching students, and facilitate hands-on learning opportunities through our apprenticeships
Fresh from a visit to the greenhouse and a bit of weeding in a row of radishes and pumpkins, 18 youngsters gathered to show what they’d soaked up during their field trip to the Veggielution organic farm in San Jose.
While many at Sandia know Kayla Norris (8100) as a financial analyst, a class of students in Oakland knows her as “Ms. Kayla,” their afterschool yoga instructor. For ten weeks in the fall of 2017, Kayla taught a yoga and mindfulness class at Roots International Academy, a small middle school in East Oakland.
This semester, Pasadena-based non profit Tools for Peace partnered with Citizen Schools California to teach an apprenticeship at Roots Academy in Oakland. Founded in 2000, Tools for Peace is an organization whose purpose is to strengthen and support emotional intelligence, as well as increase academic success. Their mission is to inspire people of all ages to develop kindness and compassion in everyday life, and that is exactly what this semester allowed them to build with our students in Oakland.
Students at Alpha Blanca Alvarado Middle School in San Jose, CA completed a ten week apprenticeship course on Journalism this past fall. The apprenticeship was taught by Patrice Tanti, Director of Technical Operations at Thermo Fisher Scientific, who has a passion for writing and reporting. During the apprenticeship, students had the opportunity to meet the Executive Editor of the Bay Area News Group, Neil Chase, and video chat with the Editor-in-Chief of The Santa Clara, Jimmy Flynn.
While at first the class struggled to find quality content for their newspaper, they quickly realized the stories were right in front of them: the other apprenticeships being held at their school! Using the investigative and communication skills they were learning, they developed out the newspaper below. The apprenticeship will live on into the spring, and a new group of students will create the next edition of The Kids Post, Spring 2018!
Citizen Schools California welcomed a new staff member, Wesley Thompson, Development Coordinator. Wesley will work to create new partnerships and strengthen existing relationships with foundations and individuals who share Citizen Schools California’s goal of expanding opportunity to all Bay Area middle school students.
Close your eyes. You’re stepping onto the netting of a 105-foot trimaran sailing boat. See the white sail majestically swell above you. Hear the seagulls call out, echoing against the hull. As the boat gains speed on the water, feel the spray of the San Francisco Bay against your skin. This morning, you boarded a school bus in East Oakland with your classmates, and this afternoon, you are no longer a 12-year-old middle schooler. You’re a young sailor on your first expedition out to sea. On June 17, 2015, 12 students from Greenleaf K-8 School in Oakland and their families had the unique opportunity to go on their first sailing adventure, thanks to Lending Club, a new corporate partner for Citizen Schools California headquartered in San Francisco.
CEO Renaud Laplanche and co-skipper Ryan Breymaier chartered the maxi trimaran--now called the Lending Club 2--and they have selected an international team for a racing program to take place over the next 7 months. The crew has journeyed from Europe to both the East and West coasts of the United States, hosting sailing trips for colleagues and friends, which now includes Citizen Schools students, families, and AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows.
This year, Citizen Schools welcomed Lending Club as its 2015-2017 Financial Education-Banking Apprenticeship Sponsor in California. Citizen Schools is the company’s first official education non-profit partner, helping to launch its “Doing Good” program, which supports Lending Club employees’ efforts to make a difference in their community. Laplanche spoke about the need for these efforts: “An opportunity gap exists in financial education. Lending Club and Citizen Schools share a goal to narrow that gap, and we’re very excited to launch this partnership and get started.”
Lending Club employees will be forming teams to teach financial education apprenticeships across Oakland and San Jose in the 2015-2016 academic year. This summer, Citizen Schools and Lending Club are collaborating to develop an interactive apprenticeship curriculum that introduces youth to basic financial concepts like “credit”, “debt,” and “savings.”
Citizen Schools California knows the value of intentional partnerships with companies like Lending Club. The apprenticeship model thrives and benefits our students most when we partner with individuals, across a multitude of industries, who understand our mission and recognize the larger implications of sharing their specific knowledge and resources.
“An overwhelming number of low-income students don’t have access to educational opportunities at the same level as upper-income students,” says Laplanche. “Citizen Schools has built an admirable program that effectively addresses that gap. We look forward to having a hand in leveling the playing field and helping Bay Area students develop their financial literacy.”
About Lending Club
Lending Club is the world’s largest online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors. They’re transforming the banking system to make credit more affordable and investing more rewarding. They operate at a lower cost than traditional bank lending programs and pass the savings on to borrowers in the form of lower rates and to investors in the form of solid returns.
Robert France has seen first-hand that students learn best by experiencing something new, while being supported by a mentors who believe in them. Robert began teaching in 2013 after learning about Citizen Schools through his role at SanDisk as VP of Customer Technical Support. He teamed up with a couple of colleagues to teach robotics at Joseph George Middle School in San Jose, CA. “Team teaching is great: it provides more viewpoints for the students, coverage when someone is out, and the ability to maximize hands-on time, as one person can run the lesson while the others can set-up the activities,” said Robert.
We recognize Robert as the January Citizen Teacher of the Month for his dedication to teaching students and belief that every student has potential! “I believe that if [we] can excite students and show them that they can do something new, maybe that is the nudge that will change that student’s path for the better.”
What apprenticeships have you taught?
My first class as a Citizen Teacher was in 2013 teaching robotics. I just finished preparing and teaching a class on 3D printing with my team. Each student got to go through the whole process from creating an idea, to modeling in CAD on the computer, and ultimately printing in the classroom on a printer. The two most popular colors were silver and glow in the dark!
Do you have a favorite WOW! moment? Did anything surprise you about the students?
There are so many great mental “snapshots”, it’s hard to pick just one. But one that stands out was when we started printing the first student-designed object in the classroom. 3D printers make a very distinct sound and the motion is mesmerizing. Seeing the class’ reaction was really priceless. I think the reaction was partly because it is just such a cool thing to experience. But partly I believe, at least for some, that that was the point where they understood that they really did it, from concept to reality.
Why do you think it’s important to provide students with hands-on opportunities?
I am a huge believer in learning by doing. There is no better way to build confidence as you gain proficiency. You also find that there are usually a couple of failures along the way, and that is okay, too.
During the 3D printing WOW!, I was watching the printer working away and listening quietly to one of the students explaining the process. He was showing and describing the layers in the object, not just reading off of the presentation board. It was really great to hear his explanation. But I was especially excited about the idea that these WOW! moments would continue for our students beyond their presentations, and this idea is a driving force for me.
I knew that after the class was over, every time one of the students showed their 3D printed object to someone, I could just imagine the person saying something great to them like, “It is so cool that you did that!” Because that is what this is all about for me – to show these students that they can do it. Sure some things you have to work at, but they are not beyond reach. The ability to extend the WOW! moment for as long as possible, to have as many WOW!s as possible, continues to reinforce the message: you can do it!
What is one piece of advice you have for new Citizen Teachers?
Believe in the students. Do not underestimate them. Pick something you love and challenge yourself to challenge them. If you are teaching a complex topic, it will take some work to make it age and grade level appropriate. But it also gives you the richest opportunity to make the experience engaging and challenging for your entire range of students. You have many resources to help you with this, partner teachers, other Citizen Teachers, colleagues – ask for help!
Why should others volunteer to teach with Citizen Schools?
Education changes lives. Confidence changes lives. Working with students is fun, rewarding, and occasionally a little tiring trying to keep up with all those brains. Citizen Schools and SanDisk have partnered together to make it easy to spend a little time, invest a little energy and in return have an awful lot of fun sharing something you love with some very energetic, really special students. The Teaching Fellows manage the classroom part (thank you!) so you can focus on your topic. And who knows, maybe one day, you’ll get a second thank you note, that you did in fact make a difference in someone’s life. I hope I do!
I came to Citizen Schools to earn my English Language Arts (ELA) single subject teaching credential in a supportive, hands-on setting. I was also extremely interested in working with 6th graders in apprenticeships; I remember developing my interest in art and poetry during my middle school years, and I pursued those disciplines in college. Having invested teachers who provided one-on-one mentoring helped me pursue my dreams. When pre-teen children have reliable adults who encourage them to pick up a paintbrush, go to a poetry reading or start their own business, they are more likely to succeed. I feel grateful that I can carry on that torch and foster creativity and self-confidence in my students.
This blog post was originally published on Cisco's Corporate Social Responsibility blog.
By Stephen Liem, IT Director, Global Quality and Support Services at Cisco
There is no limit to what education can bring. It opens up many opportunities that otherwise may not be available.
In the past 10 weeks I‘ve had the privilege of teaching journalism to the middle school students in Joseph George School in East Jan Jose, California. Cisco has been partnering with Citizen Schools, a nonprofit organization, to deliver after school educational programs to low-income schools across the country.
Citizen Schools aims to prevent students from dropping out of high school through its Extended Learning Time (ELT) model, which provides after-school mentoring and support to low-performing middle schools. Volunteer professionals, or “Citizen Teachers,” teach 10-week after-school apprenticeships on topics they are passionate about, from blogging to filmmaking to robotics.
On average the schools Citizen Teachers visit do 300 hours less of after school programming compared to their counterparts. In East San Jose, where the graduation rate is at 79%, providing more meaningful educational programs has certainly helped not just the students themselves but also the community.
In my journalism class, students in the sixth grade learned how to interview and collect data, how to write an article well, and how to express and publish their opinions honestly and truthfully. Collectively they decided on the name of the newspaper – the East San Jose News — and the subject of their stories.
The results were both eye opening and touching at the same time.
Erika and Tracy, for example, wrote that while they do not necessarily like to wear a school uniform, nevertheless it is important to wear one, because, “it protects you from gangs!” The story describes the reality they often must face outside of school, a reality that under normal circumstance they should not have to live with. It is a touching statement.
Christopher in the editorial section wrote about the importance of voicing your opinion to make a difference: “School could be cooler if you just speak up and ask for what you want. Sometimes your answer will be ‘no’ or ‘maybe,’ ‘just wait,’ or straight up “yes.’ But you will never find out unless you speak up and make your voice heard.” They may be in sixth grade, but the students absolutely understand that they can contribute to their community and they are ready to make that difference.
I enjoyed every minute I spent with my students. It was an educational process for me, but most important, I believe it was a tremendous educational experience for the students. In our country, where inequality in access to education and income disparity exist, I applaud Cisco and Citizen Schools’ effort to level the playing field for the sake of our future generation. I am glad that through Cisco, I have the opportunity to give back to my community.
Cisco employees are among Citizen Schools’ largest group of Citizen Teachers – 184 employees have taught 89 apprenticeships – and Cisco has provided more than $2 million in cash and product grants to the organization since 2009. Learn more about the partnership between Cisco and Citizen Schools.
Meeting every student’s academic needs in the classroom can be challenging but is essential to their success. Many of the public middle schools Citizen Schools partners with are reaching students who are academically all over the map, with many falling below grade level. In order to provide customized support to the highest-need students, we began “blended learning” pilots this year focused on core math instruction. Blended learning, which pairs computer-aided instruction with face-to-face classroom methods, enables Citizen Schools’ staff in four pilot programs across the country to offer more personalized and more efficient academic support during the expanded learning day. Partnered with Cisco Foundation and MIND Research Institute, the blending learning math program utilizes Spatial-Temporal (ST) Math instructional software to focus on improving students’ math skills, with the aim of increasing student proficiency for long-term success.
Launched this September, over 350 students are utilizing the ST Math instructional software at four schools across the country. And after 3 months of implementing the pilots, the initial feedback and support from our school partners is positive.
At Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, MA, Citizen Schools’ staff members are collaborating with teachers throughout the whole school day to align ST Math with the scope and sequence of their school day math lessons. The head of Orchard Gardens’ math department shared, “ST Math is a great tool and resource. It will be effective when used to review and practice what is being done in class".
On the other side of the country in Oakland, CA, Greenleaf Academy requested to expand and integrate the software for a small group of 5th graders after implementing it successfully with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.
In East Palo Alto, CA, partner school Cesar Chavez Academy, developed a special “small group” learning environment to offer additional time for English Language Learners who cannot access instruction as easily because of language barriers. Ricardo Benavidez, Community Relations Manager with Cisco, recently visited this school and commented, “With ST Math, students play animated games designed to increase math comprehension and proficiency while promoting student persistence and self-confidence to solve problems.”
Through pilots like ST Math and partnerships with organizations like Cisco and MIND Research Institute, Citizen Schools is able to provide customized learning experiences for students at all levels, ensuring they’re armed with the knowledge needed to succeed in high school, college, and the 21st century workforce.
Jeff Breau, a Googler in San Francisco, has been a personal supporter of Citizen Schools since 2011. Over the years as a volunteer Citizen Teacher he taught three apprenticeships to middle school students in the Bay Area including Rockin’ Robots, Train Your Brain, and Reading the News. Jeff was recently promoted and found himself with a busy travel schedule, making it hard to commit to a semester of teaching. Asking himself “How much am I able to do?” he switched gears and began inspiring colleagues to invest their time volunteering with Citizen Schools. His encouragement worked. Since last spring, Jeff has helped our California team recruit 32 volunteers!
Citizen Schools: Who or what inspired you when you were young?
Jeff Breau: An experiment my dad did with my grade school class comes to mind. He was a professor of microbiology and brought experiments into my class from time to time. I specifically remember getting excited about one where he brought petri dishes into the class. We all rubbed our toes in our dish and waited for the cultures to grow, and then looked at the different patterns they all made. That really awakened me to science and biology, the hidden micro world!
CS: Why do you think it’s important to provide students with real-world, hands-on opportunities?
JB: Kids aren’t always aware of what adults are doing, and what they could be doing when they get older. Citizen Schools is a way to expose them to more opportunities, creating a better chance for them to find what fuels them to succeed.
CS: What is one of your “aha” or “WOW!” moments from teaching?
JB: I taught an apprenticeship called “Reading the News.” I wanted to hook kids with topics that interested them, like music and sports, and transition them to bigger news stories on international and political levels. My “aha” moment happened when the students organically began debating Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea. They had a conversation about whether Rodman should have visited, if his visit was beneficial or not, and if his trip went against the wishes of the President. Making the leap from a basketball star to the political climate of North Korea with seventh and eighth graders made it apparent that these students were connecting to news stories at a deeper level.
CS: What was it that inspired your work as an organizer to engage more Google Citizen Teachers?
JB: My new role requires me to travel a good deal and becoming an organizer seemed to be a natural segue. My experience managing teams and organizing events paired with support from Google and Faith [Lin], the Senior Manager of Civic Engagement in CA, made it possible for me to expand my impact. If I recruited 10 Citizen Teachers who impacted 25 students each, I am still doing something good.
CS: How does Google support your involvement with Citizen Schools?
JB: As a Citizen Teacher I had a ton of support all the way up through senior the VP and Executive levels of the company from Christina [Christina Wire, Director Google Helpouts] and Claire [Claire Hughes Johnson, Vice President Google X] who share my excitement for Citizen Schools’ mission. It wasn’t just the luck of also having a great manager, although I did have that, but they recognize that 1-2 hours of outwork time was beneficial and it had only been encouraged. They were all truly supportive of me giving time to the community. Additionally, Google has a tool to log volunteer hours and they give money to your organization based on the hours you work. [Google also supports Citizen Schools as a National Leadership Partner, providing $3.25 million since 2011.]
CS: How did your time as a Citizen Teacher affect your professional development or growth at Google?
JB: Obvious and tangible benefits were that I was able to work on leadership skills and work with different people across Google. Increasing the number of people I knew and worked closely with was great. I found that teaching made my normal job easier to come back to, after teaching I felt rejuvenated and recharged returning to my desk.
Each week I was exposed to so many different viewpoints from kids and I spent time trying to get each of them excited. Making a subject interesting is a great skill to have, one that was shaped by the work I did with Citizen Schools. Bringing it back to Google, I was just applying it to a different audience.
Responding to the President’s Call to Action, US2020 Announces 7 Cities as Winners of its STEM Mentoring Competition at the White House Science Fair
City Competition Winners Announced as Part of Multi-Year Campaign to Boost STEM Mentorship Across the Country
Media contact: Oscar Robles, US2020, 347.977.0022 (cell), email@example.com
WASHINGTON, DC – Today at the White House Science Fair, responding to President Obama’s call to action to get more girls and boys engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), US2020 announced seven cities as the winners of a national competition to encourage mentoring in STEM.
Sponsored by Cisco and launched at the Clinton Global Initiative, the US2020 City Competition challenged cities to develop innovative models for dramatically increasing the number of STEM professionals mentoring and teaching students through hands-on projects. US2020 is specifically focused on increasing STEM opportunities and STEM excitement for girls, underrepresented minorities, and children from low-income families. Public/private coalitions from 52 cities across the nation applied, engaging nearly 600 companies and civic organizations.
The 7 winning city coalitions, representing over 200 companies and organizations are:
- Allentown, PA; Chicago, IL; Indianapolis, IN; Philadelphia, PA; Research Triangle Park, NC; San Francisco, CA; Wichita, KS
The winners will share $1 million in financial, consulting, and staff support over the next year to help start local movements around STEM mentoring, including:
- Communications consulting and training with Discovery Communications;
- Funds to hire a local project manager (Grand Prize Winners only: Allentown, PA, Chicago, IL, and Research Triangle Park, NC);
- Cohorts of capacity-building AmeriCorps VISTA members;
- Access to US2020’s state-of the-art volunteer matching platform, built in partnership with Tata Consultancy Services;
- Management consulting services from US2020 and external partners; and
- Membership in the US2020 community of practice.
The plans developed by these seven cities represent some of the country’s most innovative thinking in engaging underrepresented and underserved youth in STEM. To learn more about each city and for local contact details, visit their mini-profile pages here: Allentown, Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Research Triangle Park, San Francisco, and Wichita.
Cisco is a founding partner of US2020 and the official sponsor of the US2020 City Competition. Cisco continues to build upon its two-decade long commitment to STEM education, supporting major programs to develop a robust pipeline of students interested in entering STEM fields. “Our nation faces a stark but significant challenge: how do we encourage more young people to enter STEM fields and ensure that America remains competitive on the global stage,” said Blair Christie, Cisco’s Chief Marketing Officer. “In addressing this challenge, we open the door of opportunity to a diverse new generation of young people. Cisco is so pleased to be a partner of US2020 and the City Competition. It’s part of our enduring commitment to increasing America’s talent pipeline by supporting bold and innovative STEM mentoring programs.” As part of its commitment to US2020, Cisco has pledged that 20% of its U.S. workforce will volunteer 20 hours or more in STEM mentoring by 2020.
Discovery Communications, parent company to the Discovery Channel, among others, has announced it will join US2020 as its exclusive media partner. Leveraging its entire suite of networks and services, Discovery will develop a Public Service Announcement, which will star MythBusters' and Science Channel's Head Rush host Kari Byron, and will be focused on motivating girls and minorities to pursue STEM careers. The PSA will air nationally across Discovery’s portfolio of 14 U.S. networks later this summer. Additionally, Discovery Education, with US2020, will take students on a virtual field trip to the White House Science Fair as part of their Of The People: Live From the White House webinar series. Discovery also will provide US2020 and its partners with a day-long summit focused on building marketing and communications campaigns and launch a mentor program with Discovery’s STEM-focused employees. “We are extremely proud to support this fantastic STEM initiative. Education is part of Discovery’s DNA and from our first broadcast, we set out to educate and entertain viewers about the world around them. Helping to build the next generation of STEM professionals is an important part of our mission, and we are pleased to partner on this critical program, providing resources and platforms to drive this important goal,” said David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), in partnership with US2020 and Citizen Schools, has committed 25 AmeriCorps VISTA members, an investment of more than $550,000, to do the important work of engaging communities in this STEM mentoring initiative. Fifteen of these capacity-builders will serve in the winning cities, while 10 will support efforts nationwide. “Our nation's success depends on helping every child reach his or her full potential in life,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS. “We know the difference a mentor makes, and STEM mentoring can ignite a passion for math and science, building ladders of opportunity students might otherwise never have. We’re proud that US2020 is part of the STEM AmeriCorps family -- and just as proud that AmeriCorps VISTA members will strengthen STEM opportunities for students across the country.”
“Identifying and supporting programs that promote a healthy and robust STEM talent pipeline is crucial to the United States’ economic and national security,” said Pam Erickson, vice president of Corporate Affairs for Raytheon, a founding partner of US2020. “The US2020 City Competition has identified key programs that will provide new opportunities for businesses like Raytheon to help equalize access to STEM careers for underserved populations.”
Chevron announced today it has become the newest corporate partner of US2020, as part of its commitment to supporting hands-on STEM education. “Few things are more important to young people and the future of American competitiveness than a quality education,” said Blair Blackwell, manager of education and corporate programs at Chevron. “Our company not only provides financial support to hands-on and project-based STEM programs, our employees have also invested countless hours in mentoring the next generation of innovators. We look forward to working with US2020 on expanding mentorship opportunities, especially with underrepresented youth.”
US2020 has announced a partnership with Department of Energy (DOE) and its Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. US2020 and DOE will begin working together and sharing resources including DOE’s Women @ Energy and Energy Literacy programs. US2020 is also exploring ways to support DOE’s work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to bring both mentoring and energy literacy into the outreach models for public housing authorities as part of a national pilot program.
This summer the US2020 volunteer matching platform will go live and provide cities, and corporate and educational partners with a powerful tool to engage professionals in STEM education nation-wide. Tata Consultancy Services is a founding and technical partner and the pro bono developer of the platform. "TCS is proud to be building US2020's dynamic online platform that will match industry professionals with best-in-class career mentor programs, serving underserved groups, at-risk youth and minorities." said Surya Kant, President of TCS North America, U.K. and Europe. "We are excited to see this platform support and accelerate STEM education across these impressive city initiatives, and nationally across the U.S."
Together, these cities, US2020 and its partners are pushing forward a movement. The vision of this movement is an America where every child, especially every girl, every child of color and every child from a low-income family, has the opportunity to be inspired to pursue a STEM career.
US2020’s founding partners are Cisco, Cognizant, Raytheon, SanDisk and Tata Consultancy Services, now joined by Chevron, with additional support coming from Discovery Communications, Fidelity Investments, HP, Salesforce, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
US2020 is a new organization formed through a partnership of leading education non-profits and corporate leaders in the STEM field. The long-term goal of the initiative is to mobilize 1 million STEM mentors annually by the year 2020, creating millions of moments of discovery – those life changing events when children launch rockets, build robots, write a computer program, or look into the farthest reaches of the universe. US2020 relies on a committed and growing community of public, private, non-profit, and individual partners. US2020 will be incubated by Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization focused on expanding learning time for middle school students across the country, through mid-2014.
On Tuesday, April 29, 250 people gathered at the elegant Carolands Chateau in Hillsborough, CA, for Citizen Schools California's second annual gala, benefitEd. Citizen Schools California supporters and champions explored the halls of the exquisite chateau to see Bay Area middle school students showcase their Design Thinking projects, play with the android apps they created, and present the robots they built. The event celebrated the success of Citizen Schools students and honored our partnership with the HP Company Foundation.
Through our partnership with organizations like the HP Company Foundation, we are able to offer more engaging opportunities to students in the Bay Area. This video introduces us to HP’s dedicated volunteer teachers, who connect their passions for technology and photography to the dreams and aspirations of the Bay Area's young minds.
Film Credits: Director:Aaron Shadwell Producer: Colin Stokes
Special Thanks: Marlon Evans Amika Guillaume Sarah Partin Alison Townley Jim Vanides Alumni, students and teachers at Cesar Chavez Academy
In a room with purple walls and rubber floors, students from Cesar Chavez Academy buzz with creative energy. They are surrounded by building materials, an abundance of tools, and impressive technology. They drill, discuss, construct, and test prototypes. These students are in the Tech Challenge apprenticeship class and they are preparing for the Tech Challenge competition. Hosted by The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA the Tech Challenge is “a team design challenge for students in grades 5-12 that introduces and reinforces the science and engineering design process with a hands-on project geared to solving a real-world problem.” This year’s challenge was to create a mechanism that harnesses wind energy to move water.
Mario Cuellar, an after-school STEM Coordinator from the Ravenswood School District describes this year’s challenge as particularly tricky because it requires a complex set-up for students to practice on, as well as advanced knowledge in structural mechanics. Only 5% of teams are expected to succeed. In addition to the difficulty of the challenge itself, Citizen Schools teams from traditionally under-resourced schools lack the basic materials, technology, and human capital that most of the other teams at Tech Challenge have in abundance.
However, the students at Cesar Chavez Academy have been provided an invaluable resource: a makerspace. A makerspace is a common work space with an abundance of resources, where engineers and artists collaborate in subjects such as computer programming and mechanics, technology, machining, and digital and electronic art. It is a space where teamwork is encouraged, materials are aplenty, and real world learning through trial and error is essential. Initiated by volunteer Citizen Teacher Robert Pronovost, the STEM Coordinator of the Ravenswood City School District, the district received a grant funded by the Silicon Valley Foundation, DonorsChoose, and a few generous individual donors to build makerspaces in every school in the district. Cesar Chavez Academy is the first to benefit from this invaluable learning space.
The students in the Tech Challenge apprenticeship have spent the spring semester brainstorming and designing their mechanism. They decided to build fans with pulley systems that attach to a funnel that scoops up water and drops it into another container.
Throughout the room, students work through various set-backs. One student’s fan base is too light and it
keeps falling over - a lightbulb goes off. The student fills a plastic baggie with nuts and bolts and secures it to the fan base as a weight. The fan stands tall and secure. Problem solved.
The goal behind the creation of the makerspaces and the Tech Challenge are intertwined: to create a space where students use creativity and teamwork to solve real world problems; where imagination is sparked as students utilize the math and science skills they learn in the classroom to build real things with their hands. The space is a breeding ground for creative minds, and ignites new interest in STEM subjects with every opportunity to collaborate and build.
When asked what his favorite part of the apprenticeship was, one student, Christian, replied that he was really excited to attend the Tech Challenge and represent Cesar Chavez Academy. He shrugged when asked if he thought they’d win the competition. Instead of winning he was focused on the new-found pride he had in his school, his peers, and the effort they put into competing in the Tech Challenge, regardless of the outcome.
Fast forward to April 12, the day of the Tech Challenge. Christian was chosen to present Cesar Chavez Academy to the judges. When his teacher asked if he was ready to present, Christian answered, “I got this. I will present with confidence!” While Christian’s presentation was charismatic, his team fell just short of moving one liter of water in the allotted amount of time. Meanwhile, another Citizen Schools team from Joseph George Middle School succeeded in the challenge! All students were excited and supported each other throughout the event.
This spring we celebrate many successes. While one is memorialized with a medal, the other can be felt in the pride students felt when representing their school, the confidence they gained by presenting in front of a massive audience, and the excitement of participating in a state-wide competition. We all look forward to overcoming greater challenges and celebrating more success next semester.