Wrapping up its twenty-second year, the UTeach Outreach course is still helping change the world one future scientist, engineer, and mathematician at a time. We continue to place undergraduate students in Austin area schools teaching hands-on science lessons to inspire elementary and middle school students to love learning. The undergraduates still pair up and are assigned two elementary classes for the entire semester to help serve their community and underrepresented populations all while earning course credit. Classroom teachers praise the lessons for their alignment with the topics currently being taught in the classroom and their content. Those of you who were with Outreach eight or nine years ago may be surprised to see lessons you pioneered still being used today. Many of your lessons are now part of the local school districts curriculum. We also now have a computer science section of the course where kids program Arduino boards to make lights blink, buzzers buzz, motors move and toys come "alive". We still revise every lesson every semester and I imagine always will. Packing for 150 students to go out and teach is still as fun as always. We have had a few computer science folks try to write a program to schedule but have failed where Outreach leaders have prevailed. We still use totes to send the lessons out to schools, which I'm sure brings back memories of packing and packing and packing. Laurie Briseno Jack who you will read about in the spotlight is the Program Coordinator now and doing a terrific job. Former Outreach Intern Addie Kohlmetz is now a full-time assistant coordinator and our newest hire is former Manor teacher Wendy Aragones who recruiting kids like crazy for the summer camps.
The Outreach Course facilitates one hour per week of STEM for about one hundred thirty classes of roughly twenty-eight students, resulting in about 30,000 total contact hours per semester. These STEM contact hours enhance the existing STEM curricula found at these elementary schools, and motivate students to get excited about science. The course has been extremely successful, attracting about 300 undergraduates per year. We estimate that over the last twenty-one years since David Laude started this project with his van and a few graduate students we have contributed over 500,000 STEM contact hours with children. Wow!
Summer 2016 will be the 21st year of our camps focused on closing the achievement gap and providing opportunities for kids in our community. In 2010 fourth grade Discovery PREP was launched to begin the UT PREP STEM pipeline series. These summer camps are amazing because of people like you that dedicated summers to the kids, revised lessons, and prepared for the children in the Fall and Spring. Fourth grade students start in our Discovery Camp and learn about toys, tools, treks, and technology. Discovery Camp has been replicated now for over 3000 students and will expand every summer! The next camp in the STEM pipeline is Chemistry Camp for grade 5 followed by Aerodynamics camp for grade 6. Chemistry students learn about properties of matter, solutions, and chemical reactions. Aerodynamics camp students learn about the physics of flying and spend the week building hot air balloons, touring the airport, and other hands-on activities. Dozens of classroom teachers have been trained and will carryout those camps in their districts. The focus for us now is the next years of the STEM Pipeline which consits of four consecutive summers of a full day six-week program. In year 1, UT PREP 1 students study logic, mathmatical problem solving and engineering. The next summer, students take UT PREP 2 and study Algebraic Structures, Advanced Problem Solving and Physics. UT PREP 3 students study Reserch Methods, Technical Writing, Probability & Statistics. UT PREP 4 focus on Computer Science and Pre Calculus and prepare for internships. See our awesome infographic about last summer. If you have a camper to register see our website registration.
Our field trips are still going strong and this year we brought over 1600 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students from the Austin area to UT to explore campus! Outreach course volunteers and student groups were fantastic tour guides for lessons focusing on matter, light or sustainability. We now provide a field experience for almost all of UT’s future elementary teachers through the newest branch of UTeach called UTeach Primary. For the past six years, we have been able to increase the number of field trips to the UT campus thanks to funding from the UT Green Fee Grant. This is the last year of that grant. On field trips, students go to science stations around campus and are also taught a hands-on science lesson by UTeach Primary undergraduates. The science stations still include a scavenger hunt at the Turtle Pond and the Greenhouse Tour. A few new stops that we’ve added to some tours are the algae lab in the Biology building, a chemical engineering lesson making silly putty, and energy transformations discovery. Students and teachers return to their campuses with knowledge about sustainability on the UT campus. Volunteers and undergraduate students gain valuable experience leading students and teaching a hands-on science lesson. Our Outreach interns benefit from the organization and detail that are required to bring 1600 students to the UT campus and train over 60 volunteers. See the website.
UTeach Outreach now offers afterschool clubs at high need elementary and middle schools throughout the Austin area. Check out the tab on this website. These clubs help students retain information they learned in school, as well as address and go beyond the required knowledge for the Texas Mathematics and Science STAAR test. UTeach Club Coaches offer engaging, hands-on activities that are designed to get students excited about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. Middle School clubs are hosted weekly by pairs of University of Texas student coaches presenting hands-on science lessons for ten weeks each semester culminating in a trip to UT for an academic competition against the other middle schools. The elementary clubs meet twice a week and are focused on mathematics in STEM. The after school clubs expanded in 2013-2014 to 65 clubs providing an estimated 48,366 contact hours with underrepresented students in STEM education. In the past, many of these clubs are funded by state or school district grants, local foundation grants and small donations. This is the last year of both state and federal funding. See the website.
I have been involved in almost every aspect of the Outreach program, from being a student in the Outreach course to an intern to now full-time staff. I am the Program Coordinator primarily for the Outreach course, but as you probably already know, many projects overlap. I have the privilege of interacting with college students in the course, interns, faculty, staff, as well as 2nd to 6th graders on occasion. Although the children are what inspire me, I enjoy working with all age groups, especially the amazing interns that grow in Outreach and then use those skill in their own life after Outreach. My two biggest dreams are to change the world by inspiring children to believe in themselves and be confident enough to set high goals to achieve. The second is to encourage people (including the O4L team AKA you) to stay passionate and continue to remember what motivated them to make a difference in the lives of others no matter what they go on to accomplish. I truly believe the Outreach program is allowing me to get a glimpse of what changing the world feels like. I continue to grow and learn everyday. My quote to live by is, “The world is my classroom, each day is a new lesson and every person I meet is my teacher,” by Craig Harper. Two years ago, I got married and changed my name from Laurie Briseño to Laurie Jack, so be sure to change your contact info for me! I also have a new six month old son named Jaxon who makes me even more excited about making our community great for him. I am also looking forward to keeping in touch with all of the O4L team because, as you already know, teamwork makes the dream work!
Continue the Outreach legacy. Give others the opportunities that you had in UTeach Outreach. Together we will work to change the world one future scientist, mathematician, and engineer at a time. Click here to donate today.