How might I get more at-risk and underserved students to explore Maker technology and possibilities?

So far I learned that just making it available isn't enough!

Photo of Joan Kerr
2 2

Written by

I want my Maker Club and my Engineering class to serve all students. I'm perfectly happy getting the "geeks and nerds"--in fact, they're an essential element. But I want to get more kids involved. So far, I've had little success in the after school program at outreach beyond the usual suspects. However, the after-school team has been committed to exploring in such a way that we can offer easy first steps to less experienced newcomers, which is great. We're not just meeting and making, but building for the future.

However, the most successful piece of our program is our Maker Flextime session, a 30 minute period after lunch. Here, we're getting a huge draw from all areas of the school. Attached is a picture of our Glider competition, where the most consistent winner was Darius (in the red teeshirt) , and four of my ELL students came and competed, as well as a whole bunch of girls. We've had bridge modeling software that allows kids to create a bridge and test a truck over it, and Styrofoam cup devices that show off the Magnus effect. So our next step is to figure out how to get these successful flextimes to draw in kids after school.

So far, what I've learned is that building it doesn't always mean they'll come. But it's a good first step!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nathan Ivy

Michele ( Joan Kerr  )- I love this picture and the effort it represents to help all students see themselves as inventors & makers- it also looks like a GREAT use of FLEX time. I hope it builds momentum for your after-school efforts. I know your empathy activity looked at student perceptions about engineering- did you also learn anything about why students do or don't participate after school? Besides their perceptions of engineering, do they have practical concerns like work commitments or perhaps they are just shy and worry about joining a strange group? I'm also wondering about building a pipeline of students from Walters. Gray Bae is working on expanding STEAM opportunities- is there a way they can find out more about KHS? Could they come to KHS after school activities? The City of Fremont is also interested in finding ways to partner after school. Let's see if Parker Thomas has any ideas to help you access resources that might contribute to diversity and engagement after school.

Photo of Joan Kerr

Thanks for the response! I did not ask them about after school participation; I should have thought about that. I will next time. I thought of work commitments, but I think you may be right that some of them are just shy. We are working hard to be welcoming and give newcomers something to play with right away, but we need more.

Gray Bae is the reason I was in MESA which is what led directly to my work here! His MESA team wanted a high school chapter, and I ended up being "voluntold" to take part. I'm glad. Gray, Blake, and I collaborate readily on MESA, and he often visits our program. Having his students visit--or maybe having me or Blake go down to Walters--is a great idea.

I don't know where to add this, but as a result of my empathy activity, I asked our registrar to send out a note to all KHS students telling them that the Design class did not require math, and that it was a great way to explore new technologies, particularly for seniors. I picked up TEN new students, most as a result of that note or the talking I did about the survey--which I probably wouldn't have done if I hadn't needed an empathy activity! Three of them are girls. At least two are African American, and a number are Hispanic. So my class is now 24, which will give me a good group to study and ask questions of about after school participation.

At the Design Guild meeting, I met Derick Lee of Pilot City. He came up with two great externships that my colleague Blake and I will be attending in February. I can't wait to see what's up with that--and then there' sthe Feb Design meeting as well. Busy month!