More than 1,000 participants attended Scientists for Tomorrow 5th Annual STEAM Conference at Northeastern University of Illinois campus on May 2, 2015. During the conference, more than 200 high school and middle school students taught science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics hands-on workshops to their peers.
However, this conference wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement and participation of parents and instructors. Here’s a reflection of what their children and students are taking home after the conference.
“When I said there’s a conference where your children are going to be able to build something by themselves they said ‘We’re going and we’re also taking our families’. The process of having received training, talking with my own experience, communicating that voice and now having these families here it’s a total success. My hope is that the parents that aren’t as engaged will get engaged. It’s not just working on homework at home, they [parents] should also discover there are new horizons for them,” said 60-year-old Maricruz Guardado, Morton- 201 District Parents Program Coordinator.
“The teachers at Volta were very interested in bringing their students here, including the science olympians, just to see the whole conference and what’s going on because they’re interested in engineering, science and all the good things that STEAM provides. They wanted if it’s possible to actually be presenters next year. After this, they [students] will have a lot of exposure to the whole STEAM conference. They [students] have never had anyone take them to something like this,” said 27-year-old, Nahla Yafai, Volta Elementary School STEAM conference trip organizer.
“What I like about the program is that it gets kids interested on science and it gives them an insight that they don’t usually see in the classroom. It’s really inspiring for them as well as for myself. Usually in classrooms for experiments we don’t have enough supplies and materials so we don’t get to dwell deeper into what science is. But with the STEAM conference and with Scientists for Tomorrow we give them a lot of background and they get to see things they wouldn’t normally see in their science classroom. They look at science in a different light,” said Geri Catto, Duke Ellington and Ella Flygg Young instructor.
“I learned about the STEAM conference through Scientists for Tomorrow and I invited my kids and their families to come. The kids have been loving being taught by their peers. The main thing that the students are taking away are both creativity involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and also that there’s a whole community of people their age that are engaged in these types of projects. How fun can that be to get together with people their own age who are also interested in science and do creative problem solving on their own. It’s teaching them that they too can teach their peers and their friends about science,” said 26-year-old, Katie Spero, SfT instructor at Ravenswood Elementary School.
“We, as parents, have the opportunity to learn and develop as leaders and motivate other parents to participate for the good of our children’s education. As a presenter I take home the satisfaction of how so many parents were attentive while we were explaining the projects. They have the capacity, all the parents have the capacity of learning. We [parents] sometimes say ‘I can’t do this’ ,but it’s so simple. If all parents knew about it it would be another part of our children’s education. The parents’ involvement is the best because it’s the base of our children’s education. Before I thought it was more complex, but it’s a game, science is game based,” said 46-year-old, Josefina Chavez, STEAM conference presenter and member of Frida Kahlo Community Organization Parents Program.
Over 1000 participants attended the 5th Annual STEAM Conference at Northeastern University of Illinois on May 2nd, 2015.
Five years ago, Marcelo Caplan, Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor of the Science and Mathematics Department and Co-founder of Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT), and Aaron Cortes, TRIO Upward Bound Math & Science (UBMS) Director, had an idea. “Why don’t we get our teens to teach other teens?” they thought.
This idea was the catalyst for the first STEAM Conference, a conference where students have the opportunity to teach other students the value of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics through hands on activities.
After months of preparation, more than 200 presenters from various middle and high schools in Chicago represented their educational institutions and organizations by teaching more than 30 hands-on workshops to middle and high school students and parents.
The conference, a result of the partnership between Columbia College Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, also held two bilingual parent workshops where parents taught other parents the basics of open and close circuits as well as an introduction to the computer field.
Bus after bus, students, parents and instructors packed the auditorium where Marcelo Caplan, SfT co-founder, Evelyn Oropeza, SfT program coordinator, and Aaron Cortes, UBMS director, presided the opening ceremony.
As the opening ceremony progressed, Marcelo Caplan emphasized the importance of events of this nature. “We want to be part of this new model of citizens,” Caplan, 52 said. “The citizens that understand that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important and we need to integrate it also with the arts.”
Science spread through the auditorium as soon as Caplan put his goggles on! Lava flowed from test tubes, water disappeared from a cup after adding a secret ingredient and ultraviolet LED torches lighted up the room. The audience cheered and clapped as each experiment took shape, but this was only the beginning of a day full of learning.
After the opening ceremony, participants received a program catalogue where they could choose between more than 30 activities to participate in. The opportunities were endless! Some ran to the robotics competition, while others couldn’t wait to build their own monochord, multi color LED, solar USB charger or blast off rocket.
Sixteen-year-old Whitney Young High School student, Noami Guerrero, presented an energy workshop where students built a solar USB charger by studying the laws of electricity and the importance of non-renewable resources. “That presentation was nothing like what I normally do at school,” Guerrero said. “I normally just stand there and say information, and nobody is listening, but here people come voluntarily. It’s just more fun for the presenter and the audience if they are both interested in what they are talking about.” Apart from interacting with an engaged audience, Guerrero believes the conference exposes students to different forms of science and shows them how to apply it in the real world. Guerrero plans to continue studying science after high school and is already looking for in-state physics or electronics college programs.
Duke Ellington and Ella Flygg Young instructor, Geri Catto, brought her students to the conference for them to experience science from a different angle. “They get to see things that they wouldn’t normally see in their science classroom,” Catto said. For her it’s inspiring to see her students present and participate in a different role where they teach other students what they have learned in their SfT after school program.
While her kids participated in the student workshops, Josefina Chavez, Frida Kahlo Community Organization parent, taught other parents an activity called the “Magic Brain.” In this workshop parents explored energy, electricity and how to design an electric game. As a presenter she takes home the satisfaction of motivating other parents to get involved in their children’s’ educational experience. “All the parents have the capacity of learning,” Chavez, 46 said.
After hours of workshops, Marcelo Caplan, thanked students, parents and instructors for participating in the only conference that allows students to play the role of instructors.
Students took home their finalized projects and participation certificates, while presenters received a recommendation letter for their effort and dedication.
Scientists for Tomorrow and TRIO Upward Bound Science & Mathematics programs look forward to the next STEAM Conference on May 7th, 2016!
To watch the video click here: https://vimeo.com/127613959
More than 250 students from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) accepted Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) invitation and attended Chicago’s Lyric Opera on April 18th for an afternoon full of theater, culture and learning. Students along with parents and instructors got a chance to see “Carousel”, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical play.
Before the presentation, attendees got the opportunity to experience theater from backstage. Students listened to a pre-presentation by Michael Smallwood, Technical Director of the Lyric Opera, where they learned about the Science and Technology behind the theater and the opera, its secrets, such as microphones’ location and function, the impact of different frequencies of the sound on the stage and special effects.
Thirteen-year-old Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School student, Cynthia Sadie Morales, was surprised to learn about the secrets behind a musical play and had very high expectations of the show. “Not a lot of people have the opportunity to be coming here,” Morales said,”You get to experience something new that you don’t experience everyday.”
Frida Kahlo Community Organization instructor, Ikeem Jones, also appreciated the opportunity Sft organization gave his students from Edward N. Hurley Fine & Performing Arts Magnet. “I think it’s amazing because I didn’t come to the opera until I was 24, it’s good to be cultured,” Jones said.
Parents also took advantage of this cultural opportunity.This was Ines Montero, mother of two, first time at the opera “It’s a great investment because children should learn to love theater from a young age, that way we plant a seed for them to be future artists,” Montero said.
Claps and a standing ovation were the conclusion of a cultural afternoon where students,parents and instructors took advantage of a unique occasion thanks to Scientists for Tomorrow initiative.
Big news for the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) program! Marcelo Caplan, Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor of the Science and Mathematics Department and co-founder of Scientists for Tomorrow, was chosen as one of the most influential Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) figures of 2015 by the National After School Association (NAA) and featured in After School Today magazine.
Caplan was recognized, along with 16 other STEM professionals, for enriching the educational experience of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and for promoting STEM in communities through the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) program, Family Science Day, STEAM Conference and Scientists for a Day program at Columbia College Chicago. “The ideal of our organization is that STEM is a human right that everybody needs to be able to understand and use it to improve their quality of life,” Caplan, 51, said.
It’s an honor and an accomplishment for Scientists for Tomorrow to have Caplan be a STEM figure among professionals such as, astronaut and S.T.E.A.M promoter, Leland D. Melvin, and Anita Krishnamurthi, Vice President of STEM Policy for Afterschool Alliance.
For Caplan, this recognition goes beyond a personal achievement. “I believe that our program is achieving a goal that is to promote STEM in the communities, and many other people are looking at our program as a possible model to be replicated in different communities around the country,” Caplan said. Caplan will continue to work hard to promote STEM programs and enrich student’s educational experience.