2011 Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn Description
INTRODUCTION. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn is a socially innovative outof-school-time (OST) program that uses multi-level mentoring to create a critical mass of Boston youth who are fundamentally engaged in emerging science and technology. We believe that this critical mass of 3,000-5,000 youth (5-10% of Boston Public School enrollment) can catalyze cultural change in our community about what is possible to achieve and can increase the number of youth of color who go on to study science, technology and engineering in college. We are also preparing a new generation of inventors who understand that science and engineering innovation should include a social factor. Over the past nine years, we have offered meaningful paid work to over 250 Boston teenagers as they learn, build and teach with emerging science and technology. Through our collaboration with the MIT Media Laboratory, these teenage youth teachers are exposed to students, research and resources at the Media Lab as they learn. To gain confidence and competence, youth teachers then work in small teams to build projects that solve a community issue they think important. Finally, these youth teachers serve as ambassadors and mentors, teaching what they have learned about emerging science and technology to elementary and middle school youth at dozens of community organizations across Boston. We also have a successful Hub model to help community organization partners develop their own capacity to offer science and technology programming. Over the past nine years our youth teachers have shared their enthusiasm for science, technology, engineering and math with nearly 3,000 children at over 25 housing developments, community centers, churches and youth agencies while teaching hands-on project-based science, technology and engineering activities. Our multi-level mentoring approach is based on the belief, that although caring adult mentors can serve important roles, the reality is that peer influence can be equally if not more powerful. When the influence is negative, this power is at the root of many problems facing young people. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn works to harness this powerful influence positively to engage young people in science, technology, engineering and math. Returning youth teachers mentor and train new youth teachers. All the youth teachers mentor and teach younger children. We also believe that while mentoring certainly happens between individuals, the power of a group to mentor and form a support web can often be crucial in preventing individuals from falling through the cracks. Because our youth face so many challenges, we work to build an inclusive support community of seasoned caring adults, young people, education institutions and community organizations throughout our city. What sets us apart from other science, technology and engineering programs for youth is our approach in connecting “technologies of the 1
earth” with “technologies of the heart.” Technologies of the earth is are the technologies that we use to get and shape resources from the earth in a way that advances our human development, allowing access to things that would improve the quality of life and our ability to relate to the planet. Technologies of the heart are those “technologies” that bring out the best in us, enhance our relationship with each other so that each person’s gifts can be shared. Many of our youth of color are still struggling because the work of the freedom movement is not yet been completed, in particular, significant forces in the media (pervasive negative images of youth) and their schools (low expectations and achievement gaps) present obstacles to their developing self-esteem and to the possibility of their developing a strong belief in their capacity to learn and thrive. Addressing these struggles through “efficacy work” is a big part of what we do. For instance we help youth learn strategies for “getting smart,” help youth develop confidence and a sense of competence, and help youth to see failure as an opportunity. The second technology of the heart that we instill in youth teachers is the importance of innovating and inventing solutions that address problematic issues in our community and of sharing what they learn. Youth teachers build socially conscious projects and ask the young people they teach, “What did you learn that you can teach someone else?” The long term significance of Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn can be seen through the number of youth who go on to study STEM fields in college and return to mentor the next generation of teenage youth teachers. It can also be seen in the number of youth teachers who return for a second, third or fourth year and the number of elementary and middle school youth who go on to become the new generation of youth teachers. Long-term significance can also be seen as our community organization partners develop the education capacity to offer their own programs as Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn Hubs. This pipeline of youth and community organizations is preparing the next generation of inventors and STEM mentors. We are now working with MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms to replicate our model across the international Fab Lab network. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn has been written about, discussed and presented in both popular informal education enterprises such as Make Magazine and TEDKids Brussels, as well as in formal academic efforts like MIT dissertations, academic texts and the ACM Tangible Embedded & Embodied Interaction conference BACKGROUND. Over 85% of Boston public school students are youth of color. Longitudinal research demonstrates that students of color are as likely as white students to show interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math, yet they eventually run into problems that keep them from pursuing those interests.1 Boston students are faced with a troubling
Schmidt, Peter. (2006, April 11) “Study blames obstacles, not lack of interest, for shortage of black and Hispanic scientists.” Chronicle of Higher Education.
convergence of underperforming schools, 2 persistent achievement gaps along lines of race/ethnicity and income,3 a culture that does not reward academic success, and lack of access to the latest science and technology ideas and tools.4 Conventional approaches to STEM learning in schools is not working well for our youth of color. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn grew out of our belief that, while we support the slow and steady efforts of Boston Public Schools to address these issues, it is unconscionable to stand by and do nothing while our youth suffer in the meantime. Research findings suggest a correlation between frequent attendance in OST activities and positive outcomes, including an increase in academic achievement”5 and that attending high quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) afterschool programs benefits youth through “improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increased STEM knowledge and skills; and higher likelihood of graduation and pursuing a STEM career.”6 There is an imminent shortage of professionals with skills in science, technology and engineering in the United States. Our youth of color have been historically underrepresented in these fields and represent an untapped potential for rejuvenating them. By developing a network of near peer mentors of color, as well as exposing youth to both “technologies of earth” and “technologies of the heart,” we can make steps towards closing and filling the gaps in schools and in the STEM field. PEDAGOGY. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn’s pedagogy combines the learning theory of constructionism with longstanding and successful community and youth development practices. Constructionism is a learning approach developed by Dr. Seymour Papert that focuses on the reconstruction of knowledge, especially by building things, rather than simply the transmission of knowledge devoid of a compelling context. Dr. David Cavallo, co-founder of Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, worked with Dr. Papert to adapt constructionism for K-12 STEM learning. The theory claims that youth learn best as they design and build things that are “public entitities.” “Public,” because for the greatest learning to happen, the youth must both share their design process and what they make with others.
Based on a September 2008 Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary education report, 100 out of 143 Boston Public schools were underperforming, failing to meet achievement standards established by the state under No Child Left Behind. 3 Boston Indicators Project, Boston Foundation http://www.bostonindicators.org/Indicators2008/Education/AtAGlance.aspx? id=10872 4 Confirmed by Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn Final Youth Teacher Evaluation Surveys 2007-2011. 5 American Youth Policy Forum (2006. January). Helping youth succeed through Out of School Time Programs. Washington, DC: American Youth Policy Forum. 6 Afterschool Alliance (2011, September). STEM Learning in Afterschool: An analysis of Impact and Outcomes. Washington, DC: Afterschool Alliance.
Constructionism blends well with the practical and research-based youth and community development insights of Learn 2 Teach. Teach 2 Learn co-founder Mel King, who has over 60 years experience in community and youth development practice in Boston and beyond. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn was designed to reflect the responsibilities of adults to youth advocated by historian-social activist Vincent Harding. We have a responsibility to provide youth with: a psychologically and physically safe environment; meaningful work that contributes to the community; and cultural practices that transmits the seeds of values they can live by. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn both provides a safe social culture of responsibility that accompanies the meaningful work and community service youth engage in, and introduces them in to a culture of making things --- being the maker of ideas, innovations and inventions; being able to both explain and document their work so that others can see how they did it and replicate what they have accomplished; getting and giving helpful feedback to move ideas and projects forward and being able to see failures as important learning opportunities. We know it is important to involve youth of color in learning science, technology, engineering and math at an early age because historically this has not happened. We have high expectations for our youth teachers and treat them in a professional way. Teachers get paid to teach, so our youth get paid and we expect them to deliver. And we are not the only ones with high expectations. The elementary and middle school youth they teach have high expectations and often confront our youth teachers with questions that motivate them to learn more! Just as our name says, they Learn 2 Teach and Teach 2 Learn! PROGRAM STAGES. After recruiting and selecting teenage youth teacher/mentors and community organization partners, Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn operates in three stages that correspond to our approach to building a community of mentors: learning. building, teaching. RECRUITING and SELECTING: January - March. Recruiting and selecting community organization partners, college mentors and teenage youth teachers occurs from Mid-January through March each year. We believe that an active practice of inclusion is the most important way to build a community that can both mentor and receive mentoring. Our city-wide vision means that we actively recruit community organization partners to represent the Boston neighborhoods most in need of education resources. In the past two years, we have not needed to recruit college mentors, as 34 former youth teachers contact us each year expressing their desire to return. We recruit teenage youth teachers who represent Boston’s neighborhoods, schools, and ethnic groups, as well as a diverse level of academic success. We believe that it would be very easy, yet undesirable, to select youth 4
strictly on formal educational merit. We specifically target the inclusion of youth who may be underachievers in a formal education environment, but who show evidence of extraordinary intellectual potential. We have learned that many of these youth would not necessarily read or respond to literature about our program, so mentoring has been integrated into our recruiting method. We employ a word-of-mouth strategy where a network of over 250 youth workers all over the city are willing to talk to one or two youth they feel would benefit from and be a benefit to Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn and personally hand them an application. These youth workers often help with filling out the application and help the teenage youth to both deliver the application and get to their interview. Our inclusive vision also means that all applicants receive an invitation to a group interview in late March. When arriving at the interview, prospective new youth teachers are greeted by experienced, returning youth teachers who explain more about what the program has meant to them and ask the prospective youth teachers a series of questions designed to learn more about each of them. Returning youth teachers and staff collaborate to select a cohort of new youth teachers; those who are not selected are usually encouraged to apply the next year (and often do). Spring LEARNING: April –June. For twelve weeks in April, May and June, our new youth teachers spend 4-5 hours every Saturday learning and exploring different emerging technologies and sciences. Learning sessions are alternatively held at the South End Technology Center @ Tent City and at the MIT Media Lab. In addition to the learning sessions, youth teachers take tours of the MIT Media Lab and get exposed to cutting edge research and projects like CityCars, that are changing how we interact with the world. One of the Saturdays is spent participating in a wind-power design challenge with teenagers from across the world called EurekaFest, sponsored by the Museum of Science and the Lemelson-MIT Program. Going to the Museum of Science in Boston twice last year was a powerful experience as fewer than 10% of last year’s youth teachers had ever visited the Museum of Science in Boston. Part of our role as mentors is to expose the youth to interesting places that can shape their interest in science, technology, engineering and math. In the learning sessions, we use the latest research-based science and technology teaching methods and apply an integrated STEM subject approach. Theoretical information is communicated largely through hand-on project-based activities organized by our staff, college mentors (former youth teachers now in college) and exceptional youth teachers (who have been in the program for at least a year). Youth teachers acquire skills such as design, experimentation, computer programming and algorithm building. Youth also learn web tool development and media techniques as they document their learning, teaching and projects on our wiki (www.learn2teach.pbworks.com).
The modules we teach include: computer programming through building animations and games; physical programming of inventions that use sensors and actuators; alternative energy that includes introduction to power/electricity as well as solar, windpower and hydrogen fuel cell technologies; graphic design of personalized images and objects; and, digital design and fabrication using our Fab Lab, which is equipped with a number of computer-controlled machines that can turn an idea into reality. In our final evaluation surveys, when we ask about the difference between how youth teachers learn in school and in Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, new youth teachers often report that learning from and getting mentored by peers is important to them. Typical comments from this year include: “In
L2TT2L, you learn it from someone your age and its helpful, because they probably experienced the same problems as you. When you learn in school, the teachers teach you one way and sometimes it doesn't always work. So in L2TT2L, they connect it back to true life and teach you in different ways if you don't understand it.” (Jenny); and “It was different because I learned from my peers who seemed to be more understanding. They also did not try to establish a hierarchy like classroom teachers, I greatly respected that.” (Williston)
Summer PROJECT BUILDING: July – August. Youth work 20-24 hours a week during the summer months. We begin the summer with a three-week session during which youth teachers develop confidence and demonstrate their “hands-on” competency with the emerging sciences and technologies by collaborating in small groups. Each small group designs and builds a project that addresses a problem in the community that they believe is important. The projects involve at least three emerging sciences and technologies. Staff, college mentors and volunteers from the engineering and maker communities are paired with each project group. Each group presents their daily progress and shares design obstacles both in circle-up meetings and through our documentation wiki in order to receive feedback and suggestions. Past youth projects have included an outdoor solar powered charger, available to anyone in the community, that can charge cellphones, iPods and gaming devices; a levee/buoy system that uses infrared lights to detect flood water levels that could help address issues that were associated with Hurricane Katrina; an urban aquaponic garden and fish system that automatically regulates water flow; an interactive “truth chair” to help people explore the truth about gun violence in the community; an “iBed” mattress pad sewn through with conductive thread and sensors that keeps a wake-up alarm going off until a person actually gets out of bed and stays out (especially important for teenagers who oversleep and are late to school); and a see saw that acts as a game controller for a cooperative online ping pong game that gets more children onto playgrounds by integrating popular gaming into the equipment. Projects are presented and demonstrated at an end-of-summer project expo, so that people in the community can come see and appreciate what our youth have accomplished. On our final evaluation surveys, Youth teachers 6
report that the project expo is important, saying that it “shows kids are thinking ahead for the future,” and “putting their minds to work,” that it is an opportunity for “youth teachers to show off their creations to the rest of the community and give them new ideas.” Summer and Afterschool COMMUNITY TEACHING: July – August and October -- April. Later in the summer, youth receive training in inquirybased teaching and develop 3-4 children’s activities for each module. In the last three weeks of the summer, youth teachers “teach to learn,” moving their skills out into 20-25 community organizations to share what they have learned and serve as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) ambassadors to 500+ youth aged 8-13. These community organizations include housing developments, community centers, churches, and youth agencies. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn often offers community organizations their first access to meaningful science and technology programming; out of more than 30 community organization partners we have had over the years, only 4 have had the capacity to offer children any other type of STEM enrichment programming themselves. In fact, last year the Boston City Council recognized our contribution to the city by presenting our youth teachers and community organization partners with Resolutions of Appreciation at a formal City Hall ceremony. The creative activities youth teachers design range from using resistance sensors with computer programs to “play a banana peel”; to graphic designing “your own 3D monster”; to Lasercutting a “glowing name tag” by press-fitting an LED and battery using computer-aided design; to building and racing model “fuel cell cars,” to making “solar squishy circuits” with conductive play dough while learning about renewable energy; and to “animating my name” with color and music using computer programming. At the end of each learning session, the children and youth teachers “circle up” and answer two questions: “What did you learn today?” and “What can you teach someone else?”. Mentoring of youth teachers continues through the teaching stage. Community organization representatives and teams of youth teachers fill out “teaching reports” together to evaluate each learning session. Each day staff and youth teachers also meet to reflect on their teaching and how better to help each other and the young people they serve. For the past three years, our successful Hub at a Boston Center for Youth and Families located in the Archdale Housing Development has developed its own set of community organization partners. The Hub director reports on the impact of becoming a Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn Hub, saying: “Because of the multi-tier approach of the L2TT2L model, we can see change happening from a 9 year old getting excited about the material, to a teenage youth teacher gaining confidence as a teacher and forming a new perspective as a student returning to school, and to adults like myself who are challenged to learn and grow and be our best as a role model and leader. 7
I stand 100% in support of Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn. They are a catalyst for change! I am positive because my agency, the youth that we serve, and I all have been changed!” In the Fall and Winter of each year, we offer 10 week after school programs taught at selected community organizations. Evaluating Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn. We continue to use many methods of evaluating our program. During the learning and building stages, we use online surveys and circle-up discussions with youth teachers to help us adjust the program and address any challenges. During the teaching phase, we use daily teaching reports filled out by youth teachers and community organizations to evaluate and improve teaching. At the end of the program, we have youth teachers fill out a 60+ question final evaluation survey. This year, we did a comprehensive evaluation of the program using a STEM program Design Principles Rubric developed by over 110 CEOs of high tech firms who formed an organization called Change the Equation as an effort to attract more young people into careers in STEM. A copy of our Rubric can be found online at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/72705780/CTEqDesignPrinciplesL2TT2L Success of the Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn: Recognition by others. A number of organizations are interested in disseminating the Learn 2 Teach model, locally, nationally, and internationally. At a local level, we have begun to seed Learn 2 Teach “Hubs” which develop capacity to offer their own Learn 2 Teach program components. At a national and international level, we are now working with MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms to replicate our model across the international Fab Lab network (50+ sites globally). Through a grant from the National Science Foundation, four of our youth teachers traveled to set up a demonstration Fab Lab at the Alaska Federated Natives Convention in 2010, collaborating with Native Alaskan students from a local charter school and professors from the University of Illinois. Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn has been written about, discussed and presented in both popular informal education enterprises such as Make Magazine and TEDKids Brussels, as well as in formal academic efforts like MIT dissertations, academic texts and the ACM Tangible Embedded & Embodied Interaction conference. A number of articles have been published about our model and its impact in places like the Bay State Banner, South End News, and Make Magazine. One of our core staff, Dr. Amon Millner based his dissertation on research over a number of years with Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, “Computer as Chalk: Cultivating and Sustaining Communities of Youth as Designers of Tangible User Interfaces.” He and another former Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn Coordinator, Shani Dailey, published a chapter that featured research from Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, “Creating an Educational Ecosystem for Design, Personal Fabrication and Invention,” in the 2008 book, Communities 8
of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators (Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing) Success of Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn: Reaching Boston’s young women and youth of color. Since 2007, we have kept statistics on age, gender, languages spoken, numbers of new and returning youth teachers, and the reported ethnicity/race of our youth teachers. We have also estimated the number of participating youth ages 8-13, based on data from summer and afterschool teaching reports. Gender. We actively seek to balance the number of young men and young women who participate as youth teachers. We estimate that about 46% of our youth teachers over the years have been young women and 54% have been young men. We have not kept gender statistics for the children ages 813 who participate. Over the years, we estimate that 65% of our staff and college mentors have been men and 35% have been women. Ethnicity/Race. Our goal is to have mentors who look like the young people they work with. Over 90% of our youth teachers and participants have been youth of color. Over the years we estimate that our youth teachers have been 60% Black, 28% Latin@, 14% Asian, 5% White and 5% Other. We estimate that over 90% of the elementary and middle school youth who have participated in Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn are youth of color. Our core staff has been 75% Black and 25% White. Languages. For the past few years, we have kept statistics on languages spoken by our youth teachers. Each year our youth teachers report speaking between 8 - 12 different languages. Last year, 33% of our youth teachers reported that they spoke a language other than English and 25% report speaking a language other than English most of the time at home. Ages. Youth teachers range from 14 -19 years old. Typically we tend to have each cohort of youth teachers have 18% 14 year olds, 25% 15 year olds, 32% 16 year olds, 18% 17 year olds and 7% 18 year olds. We largely focus on having over 75% of our youth teachers be aged 15-17 to ensure that youth teachers can choose to return to Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn for a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th year. Other ways of demonstrating the success of Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn: Youth Teachers returning beyond first year. One indication of success that the numbers of youth teachers who choose to return beyond their first year (not counting college mentors) has increased steadily over the past four years:
Year 2008 % new youth teachers 78% % returning youth teachers 27% % total youth teachers in program beyond first year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year 16% 11% 0%
2009 2010 2011
69% 69% 60%
31% 31% 40%
21% 16% 26%
7% 11% 7%
2% 3% 7%
Former youth teachers going on to college and/or returning from Undergraduate STEM study as college mentors. Although we have thus far only collected anecdotal information about youth teachers who go onto college,7 we can report that of the last 12 youth teachers graduating high school, all but 1 is enrolled in college. Of the 6 youth teachers who graduated high school in 2011, 5 are currently enrolled in undergraduate STEM programs. Each year, we hire 3-4 college mentors for Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn in the spring and/or summer sessions. For the past two years all the college mentors have been former youth teachers who, unsolicited, contacted us with a desire to return because of both their belief in the program and how the program benefited their college studies. One of our college mentors, Ergy Jean-Baptiste was a youth teacher for three years and a college mentor for three years; we are including a letter of recommendation that he wrote for our nomination for a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Technology Mentoring. Increased interest in careers involving science & technology and teaching. For the past four years, we have been tracking youth teacher’s career interests in order to judge the impact of our program:
Year More interested in a career in science and technology 82% 64% 71% 88% More interested in how science and technology relate to a future career 82% 81% 76% 82% Want to pursue a career in science and technology 67% 60% 71% 82% More interested in a career that involves teaching Not asked Not asked Not asked 56%
2008 2009 2010 2011