Building Effective Citizenship Through STEM Learning Opportunities
Kimberly M. Harmon
Community Psychology 654
Nancy Bothne, PhD
This paper examines components of building effective citizenship through science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning opportunities via the utilization of community assets provided by partnerships between Project SYNCERE and one of their corporate community sponsors, The Chicago Urban League. They work together to make STEM curriculum and professional careers more approachable and applicable to minorities, girls, and underserved youth. By doing so, students are provided the opportunity to develop a myriad of academic and interpersonal skills, which contribute to the growth and holistic wellness of local and global communities. The building of effective citizenship through STEM learning opportunities will be examined through Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological perspective (1977).
Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments) is a community organization located in the North Kenwood neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. The organization was established in 2009 by three African-American men, who were successful professionals in the engineering and financial management fields. Jason Coleman, Co-Founder/Executive Director; Seun Phillips, Co-Founder/Director of Programs; and George Wilson, Co-Founder/Director of Finance left their respective corporate environments, and created a mesosystemic collaborative learning environment, which empowers minority, girl, and underserved students through exposure to STEM curriculum, professions, and mentors via project centered learning.
Project SYNCERE emphasizes the importance of STEM to students, so that they may realize and expand their understanding of personal and global possibilities. STEM is presented and applied in engaging and approachable methods, so that students develop confidence in their abilities to think and see their relevance in the world as scholars and innovators. They learn the importance of STEM in the sustainability and viability of a nation’s macrosystem, and they are challenged to become scholars, professionals, and citizens at the forefront of this system.
Project SYNCERE and their corporate partners encourage students to think critically and analytically. Through collaborative projects and brainstorming, students use STEM experiences to develop their problem solving, presentation, and communicative skills. They are encouraged to think creatively when discovering innovative ways of designing and building projects and co-existing in working and learning environments with other students, who come from various schools and neighborhoods throughout the Chicagoland area. While there are intrinsic challenges in creating programming, which must consider time of day safety concerns for youth and their cross-city travels, Project SYNCERE continues to provide opportunities for project based learning in which students experience the interdependence of systems, both humanistic and scientific. In this way, students and adults establish Youth-Adult Partnerships to build upon the pre-existing community strengths of family relationships and educational investment.
Chicago Urban League and Project SYNCERE: Collaborative
Corporate Community Partnership
One of the significant collaborative community partnerships, which provides funding and helps to facilitate Project SYNCERE’s community outreach with STEM, is the Chicago Urban League. This organization, incorporated on June 13, 1917, is an integral part of Chicago’s African-American community, and it is invested in the socio-economic and educational growth and sustainability of that community. According to the website, the Chicago Urban League was originally created to address the migratory needs of African-Americans who were newly arrived in Chicago from the South at the beginning of the twentieth century. (History section, para. 1, n.d.). Under the current leadership of Andrea L. Zoop, attorney and civic and business leader, the Chicago Urban League continues to advocate for educational, economic, and social equality for African-American, stabilized communities. (History section, para. 5, n.d.). That approach to community building is indicative of cultivating the interdependence of the African-American community ecosystem.
The mission of the Chicago Urban League lends itself to an organic collaborative partnership with Project SYNCERE. According to the website, the Chicago Urban League, “ works for economic, educational and social progress for African- Americans and promotes strong, sustainable communities through advocacy, collaboration and innovation.” (Vision/Mission section, para. 2, n.d.). These two organizations understand the importance of community involvement when mentoring youth and developing their adaptive capacity. Educational strength, parental and community support, and economic viability are all components of building effective citizenship, particularly on a global, macrosystemic level. Strength and savvy in STEM education and career choices provide minority, girl, and underserved youth with the opportunities to be local and global innovators and leaders. As these students experience the personal succession that occurs when they develop the multi-faceted communicative, collaborative, and analytical skills necessary for learning, designing, and creating the STEM projects, so, too, do the ecological systems within the Project SYNCERE, Chicago Urban League, Chicagoland, and global communities experience succession, evolutionary expansion, and change.
Seun Phillips, Co-Founder, Project SYNCERE(left); Jason Coleman, Co-Founder, Project SYNCERE (right)
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