A little preparation of a STEM professional, before they work with youth in outreach, makes a big difference.
Key areas to review and practice include:
- My elevator pitch: Why do I do what I do? Is what I do related to something my audience already knows? What do I love about it? Who do I help with my work?
- Practice the activity: A demonstration is definitely better than a straight lecture, but even better is when youth get their own hands on the activity and do it alongside you. That merits practicing how you’ll . . a) explain the steps and what to watch for, b) set up questions to consider, c) collect data/responses from youth, and d) hand out materials (can you pre-sort and assemble baggies, or make materials zones?)
- Consider connections to make as the hands-on activity is completed, and data is reported from your youth. How can you get everyone’s attention? To what will you compare this activity? Where might youth have seen something like this before? Why do they “need to know” this? Don’t miss this incredible learning opportunity to make the fun thing they just did, and your expertise, a memorable connection to something in STEM they’ll see again (in class, out in the world, in the news, etc.)
- Relax and engage: Remember that age-old advice, the best way to put someone at ease is to ask about themselves. Plan to ask for some opinions with a show of hands, or a thumbs-up/thumbs-down vote. Request volunteer helpers, get a few youth to come up and present. By taking the focus off you for a bit, you actually remain more in control and make your presence felt.
“The way she presented to us in the training pretty much changed the way that we go about interacting with kids. It was just a lot more positive in how we ask questions or we get comments back and how we treated each individual and then how we treated the whole group as a whole. Once we had the skills that we needed, it gave us more energy to show them why we chose engineering and why we love it. That’s another skill we learned from Megan is that we could show engineering as a relatable goal that they could achieve to put us, put ourselves in their shoes and then to show them that anyone can do this. You just try and give it your all and you can do it.”
— from collegiate member of the Society of Women Engineers