Many pre-college programs were developed and implemented nationwide to increase high school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Plentiful prior studies documented positive impacts of such outreach efforts using exit interviews. This paper examines various educational instruments in their effectiveness of stimulating STEM interest using both an end-of-program survey and an alumni survey, and discovers activities of high impacts that can be used by other similar outreach programs.
A National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) program recruits a group of high school students with diverse demographic and academic background, and focuses on raising participants’ awareness in STEM educational and career opportunities. For two consecutive years, program participants evaluate five educational instruments: software demonstration, simulator operation, material testing, building exercise and competition, and field trips in end-of-program surveys. Students are asked whether each educational activity helps them better understand STEM using a four-point scale. These program participants are solicited to take an on-line survey couple of years after program completion. This longitudinal survey asks the past program participants (alumni) to recall activities they participated and to evaluate effectiveness of these activities in stimulating STEM interests.
Preliminary results show that high school students learn more effectively through hands-on activities with a competition and such activities have high impacts on program participants a few years after they complete the NSTI program. Field trips are also found very effective in helping high school students understand STEM disciplines and applications. In addition, open-ended questions in the alumni survey reveal that enrichment activities and interactions with industrial professional have high impacts on high school students. These findings can assist educators and outreach program directors in developing curriculum activities that match with high school students’ learning styles.
Based on the findings from both end-of-program and alumni surveys, this paper presents detailed implementation of such high impact educational activities. They require minimal monetary investment, but do need knowledgeable subject experts (e.g., university faculty or experienced high school instructors) to offer guidance and technical support in the design phase, to administrate the competition, and to judge student designs before prizes are awarded.
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