1. Denise Nacu
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Building a Learning Ecology to Increase STEM Participation Among Middle School Girls
  4. http://digitalyouthnetwork.org/divas/
  5. DePaul University
  1. Sheena Erete
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Building a Learning Ecology to Increase STEM Participation Among Middle School Girls
  4. http://digitalyouthnetwork.org/divas/
  5. DePaul University
  1. Nichole Pinkard
  2. http://digitalyouthnetwork.org/staff/nichole-pinkard/
  3. Associate Professor and Co-Founder of Digital Youth Network
  4. Building a Learning Ecology to Increase STEM Participation Among Middle School Girls
  5. http://digitalyouthnetwork.org/divas/
  6. Northwestern University
  1. Naomi Thompson
  2. http://www.naomi-thompson.com
  3. Postdoctoral Scholar
  4. Building a Learning Ecology to Increase STEM Participation Among Middle School Girls
  5. http://digitalyouthnetwork.org/divas/
  6. Northwestern University
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Denise Nacu

    Denise Nacu

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 9, 2022 | 03:06 p.m.

    Greetings from the Digital Youth Divas team! Our collaboration across Northwestern and DePaul has explored the critical role mentors play in encouraging girls to learn and persist in STEM in in-person and online environments. Supporting mentors in their STEM pathways is also key and something we are focusing on more. We are excited to share our experience and vision for mentoring girls in STEM. And we'd love to hear about your approach to recruiting, developing, and supporting mentors. We look forward to connecting!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Naomi Thompson
  • Icon for: Emily McLeod

    Emily McLeod

    Facilitator
    Director of Teaching and Learning, Code.org
    May 10, 2022 | 10:05 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this project! I love the ecosystem approach that you are taking to supporting girls’ STEM interests and persistence. You mentioned families as part of the ecosystem—what participation do families have in the project? Do mentors work with families as well or primarily with girls?

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 11, 2022 | 09:47 a.m.

    Hi Emily, thank you for your question! While the mentors work primarily with the girls, we formed an active Caring Adult Network (CAN) made up of parents of the girls and interested community members/program providers who gather at least monthly for workshops, social events, and more! This group has always been incredible, but especially in the last school year they have taken even more ownership of the group, planning their own adult social activities as well as family events and field trips. They are really dedicated to creating community for themselves and their children, and we are so thankful to get to support them and connect with them. One element that made this possible was a community relations engagement manager who was on our team who helped bring CAN together and empower them to take on leadership roles in the group. It's amazing to see!

  • Icon for: Roxana Hadad

    Roxana Hadad

    Facilitator
    Associate Director
    May 11, 2022 | 12:32 p.m.

    Congratulations on all of the amazing work you're doing now and have done over the years, Digital Divas team! I'm curious to learn what outcomes you are measuring for both the mentors and the divas themselves.

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 12, 2022 | 10:36 a.m.

    Thank you, Roxana! Our work takes an ecosystem approach, and we are currently looking at a range of data such as interviews, surveys, log data from our learning platform, and reflections to understand the role of this program in the local landscape and the ways the program has impacted community, learning, participation, and more. This work with mentors has also helped inspire an even larger STEAM mentorship development program (STEAMbassadors Initiative) where we are able to track learning pathways mentors take toward their desired futures. Last, a member of the research team is working on her dissertation around mentor learning and specifically this context of women mentors working with middle school girls - be on the lookout for more on that soon!

  • Icon for: Roxana Hadad

    Roxana Hadad

    Facilitator
    Associate Director
    May 15, 2022 | 06:23 a.m.

    Can't wait! Thank you, Naomi!

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Naomi Thompson
  • Icon for: Neela White

    Neela White

    Project Director
    May 11, 2022 | 01:51 p.m.

    Congratulations to the Digital Divas team and all the scholars involved.  Great work.

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 12, 2022 | 10:37 a.m.

    Thank you, Neela!

  • Icon for: Fran Agnone

    Fran Agnone

    Program Director, STEM Educators Academy
    May 11, 2022 | 04:15 p.m.

    Thanks for this share! This project sounds so wonderful. I wonder if you could share your approach to recruiting and developing mentors to be in these learning spaces. Do you have set curriculum or do mentors come in with their own?

    The program I work with focuses on supporting afterschool community educators into gaining confidence in teaching STEM. Adding mentors from the community is a wonderful way to think about including more support and voices in the room.  

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 12, 2022 | 10:48 a.m.

    Hi Fran! A bit of both! We draw on existing curricula created by program partners and past mentors, and sometimes mentors have opportunities to make their own units and projects, or adapt the existing curricula! It's a really nice balance to give mentors with different experience levels opportunities to facilitate in different ways!
    Your program sounds so impactful! Having mentors from the community has been such an amazing element for us. Some of our mentors are high school students as well, and they are such great role models for the younger girls who can ask questions about high school classes, activities, etc.

  • May 11, 2022 | 06:11 p.m.

    What an awesome project! I love that you have created this space or what you described as an "ecosystem" for girls - including "Black and Brown" girls. I would love to hear more about this ecosystem/space you created. Love the name!!!

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 12, 2022 | 11:10 a.m.

    Hi Catherine! We have understood our Divas ecosystem as including youth programming, mentors, our Caring Adult Network (CAN - parents and community members dedicated to bettering the out-of-school opportunities for their youth), and what we call the Collective, which is all the other local program providers such as libraries, after school clubs, etc. While we want girls to participate in our programs we also want them to know about and try out the range of opportunities out there! We try to act as brokers for girls and their families in navigating the landscape.

  • Icon for: Jan Cuny

    Jan Cuny

    Facilitator
    Dir DEIA for Strategy and Operations
    May 12, 2022 | 08:18 a.m.

    Interesting ecosystem approach.= which could be really powerful. I especially liked the addition of parents. What level of participation have you been able to reach with this group? Do you have any way to measure or at least track it's impact?

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 12, 2022 | 11:13 a.m.

    Hi Jan! We have been really excited by the participation in our Caring Adult Network (CAN - parents and community members). This year we've seen increased participation as well as some parents taking on more leadership roles within the network! They are taking it upon themselves to organize social events for adults so they can form more intentional community, as well as to organize family outings and events to include siblings and help showcase learning as a lifestyle. We just concluded some interviews with parents that will help us better understand the impact, and we collect survey data at the beginning and end of every program year as well. We're just diving into some of that data now, and look forward to sharing more soon!

  • Icon for: Jan Cuny

    Jan Cuny

    Facilitator
    Dir DEIA for Strategy and Operations
    May 13, 2022 | 08:27 a.m.

    In working with kids groups (tutoring programs, Girl Scouts, etc.) and being a parent myself, I've found that lots of parents just don't have time to consistently volunteer. Some do, of course, and that's terrific but it would be interesting to look at the parents who do show up in your ecosystem to see what motivates and sustains their participation. 

    Great work!

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 13, 2022 | 12:44 p.m.

    Thanks! Yes - we interviewed parents across the participation spectrum and are looking forward to learning how to better support parents at all levels!

  • Icon for: Ann Podleski

    Ann Podleski

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2022 | 03:00 p.m.

    I love the way you are getting the families involved - I think this is a key component that will make one of the biggest impacts.  And the full eco-system with community involvement - so many people on board working collaboratively.  The fact that you are seeing increased participation and parents starting to organize social events is wonderful - I am sure this will continue to grow and I look forward to hearing more as you look into the data. 

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 13, 2022 | 01:57 p.m.

    Thank you, Ann! It's been a great experience and we are looking forward to sharing even more in the future.

  • Icon for: Eyualem Abebe

    Eyualem Abebe

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 12, 2022 | 05:02 p.m.

    This is a great program for the participant girls and the mentors. We need more of this everywhere. I am wondering what kind of community connection would provide you with the linkage to recruit the participants? Do you announce it online and you get applicants or do you work with a few school systems?

    Thanks

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 13, 2022 | 12:46 p.m.

    Hi Eyualem! We recruit in a number of ways, schools, emails, word of mouth, local community organizations! In our area, families really do try to take advantage of all the opportunities out there, so we were careful to talk primarily to our target communities. It helped that we had someone on the team whose job was specifically community engagement and outreach. We're always trying to learn and get better!

  • Icon for: Maria (Mia) Ong

    Maria (Mia) Ong

    Researcher
    May 15, 2022 | 06:44 p.m.

    What an inspiring project! The joy that the program brings to all involved is evident. I love that you are attending to the mentors' growth as much as you are the girls' growth. I have questions about the mentors: Are they all graduate students? Does the program train them in culturally responsive computing (K. Scott et al., 2014)? If they are grad students, how is their involvement in this program viewed by the department, i.e., as reinforcing their doctoral training, or detracting from it? Thanks!

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 16, 2022 | 09:46 a.m.

    Hi Mia, great questions! The mentors are undergraduate students and two are currently local high school students. The mentors are paid as hourly employees. They receive specific training around why it is important to nurture girls of color in STEM and strategies for facilitating STEAM activities. The majority have also worked as mentors in a larger summer program -- STEAMbassadors -- where they have also received training in trauma-informed youth work and more. We have not used the specific piece you are referencing, but will certainly be looking into that - thank you for sharing! 

  • Icon for: Jan Cuny

    Jan Cuny

    Facilitator
    Dir DEIA for Strategy and Operations
    May 16, 2022 | 09:11 a.m.

    Similar to my question about parent's time, I also have Mia's question about student mentor time. Does it take away from their study time? Time needed for jobs? Do they get paid as mentors?

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 16, 2022 | 09:49 a.m.

    Hi Jan, yes! The mentors are paid hourly. Some have other part-time jobs as well and some do not. They each have the flexibility to balance their own schedules and needs (perhaps working less during mid-term week, for example). Those who are seeking more hours may ask to take on additional responsibilities, such as leading more activity units, while those with stricter schedules may support the youth and other mentors in other ways. Especially as the undergraduate mentors near their graduation, we try to check-in individually about their next step plans and help make connections where we can. The program is about their development as well as the middle-schoolers'!

  • May 16, 2022 | 07:04 p.m.

    I love the work that you are doing. This type of work is very personal for me. I have designed and implemented several mentoring programs, and it can be a challenge, particularly for high school and college students with busy schedules. How do you recruit and retain mentors for your program? What is the time commitment to the program for mentors? Months? A year?

  • Icon for: Naomi Thompson

    Naomi Thompson

    Co-Presenter
    Postdoctoral Scholar
    May 17, 2022 | 11:22 a.m.

    Hi Jamelle! You are so right, high school and college students have so many demands on their time. Our recruiting in recent years has been mostly through recommendations, word of mouth, and participation in relevant groups like Black Engineers. For the summer programs, we also work closely with a local community college and their recruitment channels. For the Divas program specifically, we ask that mentors commit to participating through the academic year (~Oct - May), but of course we understand that a lot can change over the course of an academic year. Compensating the mentors for their time certainly helps with retention. And we love to ask mentors back year after year if they are interested! It offers incredible opportunities to see them grow over time.

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