“During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those who continuously strive to provide young people with the resources and support they need and deserve, and we recommit to building a society in which all mentors and mentees can thrive in mutual learning relationships.” -President Barack Obama
STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math–fields are growing at a faster rate than other occupations. From 2008 to 2018, they are projected to increase by 17% compared to 9.8% for non-STEM jobs. Unfortunately science and math students in the U.S. are lagging behind those in other countries. Very few U.S. high school graduates are college-ready in science (29%) or math (43%). At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest we strive to provide the children we serve with opportunities to explore possibilities and create bright futures. Many of the children in our programs don’t know anyone who has gone to college and they have never thought about a career in a STEM field, so we are excited to announce our new MySTEM initiative to help bridge this gap and bring STEM to life for the children we serve.
MySTEM stands for Mentoring Youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The goal of MySTEM is to introduce kids to STEM and build their self-esteem and confidence around science. “I want kids to use their curiosities and observations to figure out what science is,” said MySTEM Institute Director, Jessica Haggett, “…kids do it all the time.” Jessica is committed to the principle that science, as a whole, should be seen as exploration and encourage curiosity, questioning, observation and discovery.
Jessica comes from a science research background where she worked in an ecology lab and taught outdoor education in Western Massachusetts. She always enjoyed working with kids–especially kids who don’t normally experience the science around them. During her outdoor education outings, Jessica would bring her students out to a wooded area and meditate under the night sky. “During this exercise, a kid asked me what was above us,” Jessica said. “I couldn’t believe what I had heard him say. I didn’t know there were kids who didn’t know what stars were or what the Milky Way looked like.” This brought Jessica to a big realization: children were not getting enough exposure to science. “I know science is perceived as something to be difficult and daunting,” said Jessica, “but it really isn’t.”
Now Jessica has joined with BBBS CM/MW to bring science activities to all of our Big and Littles. She offers STEM activities and kits to all Matches and is bringing STEM to all of our events. For Matches that show a real dedication to exploring STEM, Jessica is working with Corporations like MathWorks, Bose and Boston Scientific to provide comprehensive STEM programming and opportunities.
BBBS CM/MW serves over 44 communities. “Everyone in the communities is interested in implementing STEM activities into the mentoring relationship.” said Jessica. MySTEM hopes to engage students in all 44 communities BBBS CM/MW serves in the science and engineering practices that goes beyond understanding the natural world. For the kids BBBS CM/MW serves the science activities they participate in is all play. MySTEM is not an educational institute where Little Brothers and Little Sisters will leave with copious amounts of memorized materials. They will leave with the desire to wonder, question, and push their curiosities to discover and try new ways in running an experiment.
MySTEM’s desire is to spark the desire of kids BBBS CM/MW serves and to encourage further development in our Littles who are interested, but don’t feel confident enough, to practice and participate. “It’s an exciting time and I feel humbled to be a part of this process,” Jessica said. “The institute is poised for success.”
For more information on how to become a volunteer mentor with BBBS CM/MW, check out: http://bbbscm.org/faqs. Or, if you’re interested in supporting the MySTEM initiative, contact Jessica Haggett at Jessica.Haggett@bbbscm.org.