The STEM Impressionists Program (SIP) was created by Angela DeHart, a middle school Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) teacher.
The program is an opportunity for underrepresented students to receive sustained mentoring while engaging in hands-on participatory activities that develop their STEM, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. From middle school to college students are offered opportunities that prepare them for real world challenges inherent in the field of their choice.
Initially, I used my self-developed FACS lesson plans and FCCLA, the after-school science fair for home economics, as a way to highlight the connections between STEM and FACS. The kids and I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to expand my efforts and started to exploring traditional STEM topics directly; I was the coach of a FIRST robotics team and I established an after-school girl’s coding club. My after-school activities were so successful that they kept expanding and eventually grew into the invitation that launched the STEM Impressionists program! I love what I am doing.
My passion is partnering with kids to develop the skills that will permanently transform their lives. I finally found my niche! As I continued to developed my skills as a Family and Consumer Science (FACS) teacher, I also attended STEM conferences to hone the incorporation of STEM into my classroom. This process transformed me. I grew to understand that I was an engineer that used textiles to solve problems! When I looked up “textile engineer” in a Google search engine I found out that it was a real job, paid extraordinarily well and found a school that I would have loved to attend!
Once I understood that truth many parts of my life fell into place and it became my mission to ensure that we did not miss other female engineers like myself.
As a Family and Consumer Science (aka. Home Economics) teacher I felt it my duty to learn how to cook well and maximize the knowledge in my class by helping students to learn the math, science, and cultural benefits behind the art of cooking. I spent a great deal of time studying food, from production to consumption. Along the way, as I continued past the purchasing of cookbooks and into the habits that distinguish Chefs from home cooks, I quit following recipes and began to creating formulas, I upgraded my equipment in order to create a semi-commercial laboratory, and I realized that I had taken the leap from only being interested in being an excellent teacher to being transformed by the information I was learning. I was acknowledged as a Virginia Super Teacher but without my students, it would have never happened. I am forever grateful to them.
The STEM Pipeline is a metaphor to describe the educational pathway, from early childhood well into college, for students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics prepared to make significant impacts in their respective STEM industries.
The current reality of the STEM pipeline is flawed, however, particularly for black and brown students. Beginning in elementary school, access to STEM is dependent upon socioeconomic status, competent teachers, and quality curriculum.
As students from these disadvantaged systems progress into middle school, the disparity gap grows larger. Many students begin to struggle in science and math specifically as they continue to be met with inadequate teaching practices and often unethical disciplinary measures.
In high school, counselors and school administration officials typically place students in classes that are rote and simple, instead of guiding students towards prospective career paths in STEM.
As a result, students are not taking classes relevant to skills that will help prepare them for the STEM field. In addition, the stress of preparing for college financially, studying for college entrance exams, and maintaining an active social life often leave students hopeless and distracted.
At the end of the pipeline once students enter college, they’re intimidated by a career in STEM due to their lack of experience with the subject matter both hands-on and academically. They simply have not been prepared for success.
Career Exposure, Age-appropriate STEM, Peer-to-peer Training
Building a Resume, Acquiring new STEM skills, Writing lesson Plans, Peer-to-Peer training, STEM Competitions
Resume used to apply for scholarships, Resume used to apply for internships, Creating own STEM events, Peer-to-peer training
Filling out Common/Coalition App, Resume used to apply for internships, Actively talking about college process, Speaking intimately to career professionals, Peer-to-peer Training, Community Service
Obtain resume supported scholarship(s), Enter prestigious HS STEM opportunities, Hired for paid internships, Continue peer-to-peer community service, Accepted at schools of choice
Decide STEM is not for them, change major, Know how to code in at least 1 language, Networking with SIP cohort, Have choice of career path
Thank goodness for SIP!
The STEM Impressionists Program does things differently on purpose to solve the aforementioned “leaky pipeline,” SIP’S interventions in elementary and middle school expose students to various STEM careers such as computer science, electrical engineering, information technology, and more while engaging students in experiential learning to boost their confidence in the material.
Starting in middle school students acquire new STEM skills by creating and delivering their own lesson plans (they become peer-2-peer educators), writing and presenting at regional and national conferences, and continuing to update and use their resume for a variety of opportunities. So when the students enter high school, they have a lengthy resume full of applied experiences and can spend those formative years before college continuously growing their network and applying for targeted scholarships and internships that they’ve so brilliantly have been prepared for.
The end of middle school and the beginning of high school is the focal point in the program as college readiness, a long term goal, becomes a priority planning process, and not an afterthought as in the standard method. Impressionists participate in their own curated STEM events, creating their own opportunities for minority students to share their knowledge, experience, tips and tricks. The intent of the program is for everyone, the students, the community, and the Impressionists to win. We are all on this journey together!
The collaborative, intergenerational model ensures that each student has access to competent instructors/mentors, community resources and peer support.
The African proverb: “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together” is actualized as the cumulative experiences allows the students to enter prestigious institutions of their choice for college (through earning a graduate degree), acceptance into nationally sought-after internships, and for most, executive board members for SIP!
The STEM Impressionists improved pipeline works by abandoning old frameworks of individualism and gatekeeping, and instead forms a collective to make meaningful connections of STEM in the lives of young marginalized students.
They continue to foster a communal environment so students aren’t afraid to take risks and step outside of their comfort zone. Those risks have led to huge rewards for SIP as Impressionists have been awarded over $100,000 in scholarships, created a pattern of team success in both local and national STEM competitions, and received numerous individual, team, and organizational recognition awards.
Stem Impressionists is more than a program, it’s a community with a commitment to supporting others. We believe that: