ScienceQuest supports community based organizations and community technology centers in their implementation of after school science inquiry projects for young adolescents (aged 10 to 14). In the first year of ScienceQuest, over 100 kids from ten different community organizations formulated their own queries, developed research plans, investigated science questions, and designed their own web sites to share the results of their investigations.
ScienceQuest has outlined the following goals for participating youth: to promote excitement about science, to provide opportunities to increase content knowledge, to foster technological skills that will be applicable for school and work, and to offer positive experiences working with a peer team in a safe, after school environment.
To set up a ScienceQuest team, community based organizations need guidelines and resource materials; volunteer coaches need training for working with youth and technology; and youth and parents need to understand the value of the program. ScienceQuest staff work with center coordinators to establish the basic structures needed for setting up ScienceQuest teams. ScienceQuest staff organize a full-day, in-person training to present the curriculum adapted specifically for after school environments. Centers can access downloadable templates, online resources, and training materials, and the help desk offers ongoing technical assistance.
CBO Technology Planning
Lauren’s primary assignment throughout the course of her service year at YouthLearn has been to redesign our web and email tools and resources to help us better serve our community.
There were three primary tasks detailed in Lauren’s workplan:
• Leverage existing and new tools/content/resources to enhance website/discussion list/newsletter and related services
• Develop a more systematic, integrated way of identifying and/or creating resources for YouthLearn community and broader field
• Evaluate and improve systems (automated and otherwise), especially our choice/use of technology tools, for efficiency/cost-effectiveness/appropriateness and advise on new technology
Lauren’s work has led to three major changes in our online services. She has converted our discussion list to a new format using mailman software that offers us much easier facilitation. She has created a member database where we are able to collect feedback from our community as well as demographic information. Lauren also created an incredibly effective blog format for our online newsletter that can be continually updated by any member of our team and automatically delivered to subscribers on a regular basis. These and other contributions from Lauren’s year have greatly improved YouthLearn’s capacity to harness new technologies and better serve the field.
“Lauren has been an extremely dedicated worker and possesses many impressive qualities including commitment to our work, her conscientiousness, her follow-through on tasks, her professionalism, and her willingness to receive constructive criticism and learn/adapt accordingly. We were all consistently impressed with the ownership she felt toward her tasks and the initiative she took with them, as well as her strength as a team player and commitment to other YouthLearn staff members.”
CBO Curriculum and Website Development
Over the past year, our VISTA has helped us bring ScienceQuest (an after-school science education program for young adolescents) to more communities, resulting in our reaching over sixty different community organizations over the last three years. Our project provides under-served, under-represented young adolescents with the opportunity to explore science in an informal, after-school setting. ScienceQuest provides organizations with a research-based plan designed to inspire enthusiasm for and curiosity in the sciences as well as training, technical support, web development tools, web hosting, and advice on teaching and science topics.
Summary of Goals
- Create a youth-friendly website
- coach two teams
- create promotional materials for CTCNet conference
Our VISTA, Caitlin Feeley, made significant contributions to our work. She created a youth-friendly ScienceQuest website including original graphics and content, and strived to keep the site accessible through engaging, youth-appropriate writing and valid HTML. She coached two ScienceQuest teams this year, helping students create their own projects on topics ranging from space to chemical reactions to the laws of motion. She produced and edited a digital video that we used to introduce our program to new coaches and coordinators at the 2004 CTCNet conference in Seattle. In addition to these major projects, Caitlin also provided day-to-day support for ScienceQuest by updating and maintaining our website, providing technical and other support to coaches and coordinators, writing correspondence, manuals, reports, and other materials, managing our listserv, and other administrative duties. If you would like to learn more about her accomplishments, we encourage you to visit her website at: http://www2.edc.org/sciencequest/vista/
Marketing and Outreach
Susan’s responsibilities required her to split her time between two distinct projects (ScienceQuest and YouthLearn) and she has been wonderful in balancing the work. Susan has played a major role in enhancing the websites of both YouthLearn and ScienceQuest. She was responsible for developing new pages and for maintaining the integrity of existing pages. She played an important role in monitoring the usage statistics of the websites. Her responsibilities also included assisting ScienceQuest participants through a discussion list, and coordinating ScienceQuest trainings. Susan has assisted in the creation and production of YouthLearn’s e-newsletter. She also coordinated a number of special projects for the YouthLearn community, such as assisting applicants to the Beaumont Foundation Technology Grants.
The ScienceQuest work plan stayed true to the work Susan did for this project. She assisted with training, provided ongoing support, and documented progress of ScienceQuest teams. The original YouthLearn work plan was ambitious in the tasks outlined, and assumed a full-time VISTA would be placed with the project. Given that Susan has been splitting her time on two projects, tasks on the YouthLearn plan needed prioritizing. Those tasks have been core service enhancement, especially the Website and the electronic newsletter. She has also been involved in market development, by prospecting organizations and current events in the field of youth and technology, and representing YouthLearn at professional meetings. As YouthLearn has evolved quite a bit while Susan has been with the organization, other projects have been added to her responsibilities, such as assisting the communities with special initiatives, and researching the creation of printed publications.
Without the support of a VISTA member, we simply would not be reaching the numbers of people that we are today, nor with the level of support that we aim for. It has been an enormous boon to us to have Susan for the past year! After school programs and youth development professionals across the country (and world!) are reaching kids in ways that they might not be able to without these two projects.