Phase 3: Soar into STEMed: A Teacher Internship Program Strengthening USM STEM(ed) through Community Partnerships
People engage in STEM concepts every day in places within their communities, such as museums, grocery stores, parks, and zoos. These community settings also provide unique learning opportunities for USM’s teacher candidates and the broader STEM student community at USM.
Our team actively works in collaboration to leverage the potential of these partners to provide innovative community-centered education experiences to expand and develop a research-based model of STEM teacher education.
Why it started...
Soar into STEM is a community-based teacher residency program that centers the unique possibilities that have always existed beyond traditional school settings as they inherently afford rich and highly relevant learning experiences for teacher candidates (Adams & Gupta, 2017). In line with scholarly literature on teacher education, we contend that highly-effective STEM teachers enact a diverse pedagogical skill set (Goodnough & Hung, 2009), value and teach cultural competency for all K12 students (Bianchini & Brenner, 2009), and sustain a level of resiliency to daily challenges inherent to K12 teaching (Davis et al., 2006). Such skills have become vital for teachers with the onset of the COVID19 pandemic. While, traditional practicum experiences in schools have become increasingly limited for USM teacher candidates. Simply put, these informal spaces allow teacher candidates to ‘stretch their wings’ and develop innovative pedagogical practices to translate into their teaching responsibilities in school settings. Our PIs and Soar into STEM mentors have been steeped in building these types of community partnerships across the Gulf Coast region for the past several years. With the support of the Payne Foundation, we are piloting a research-based model of STEM teacher education that centers informal community-based learning contexts as rich sites for teacher education.
The impact of the Soar into STEM Residency Program has intergenerational effects that percolate throughout schools, regional community organizations, and USM’s undergraduate education. More specifically, we envision the following reverberating implications:
Increase the number of highly qualified STEM teachers for high-need K12 schools in Mississippi
Prepare community-based STEM teachers to serve approximately 1,000 local students
Expand collaborative community-based partnerships and service-learning experiences
Leverage expertise and existing capacity to support the development of effective, culturally competent STEM teachers
Explore options for sustaining future iterations through community-work study experience in partnership with USM's Office of Financial Aid.
Use data and insights found through our evaluation plan to prepare a proposal for external funding support (e.g., Kellogg, NSF, NIH, MDE, etc.)
Provide financial support that incentivizes teaching in Mississippi as a viable career pathway.
Applications to Research & Practice
To what extent will the Soar into STEM Residency Program impact the number of teacher licensure candidates committed to teaching STEM in a high-need school upon graduation?
How does the Soar into STEM Residency Program develop effective, culturally competent, and community-centered STEM educators for high need K-12 schools?
What resources (e.g., mentorship, signing bonus, scholarship, classroom materials, etc.) are most effective at incentivizing Soar into STEM residency applications?
What are the key support mechanisms (monetary, administrative, social, academic, access, etc.) needed to continue and expand the Soar into STEM Residency Program?
How are Soar into STEM Residency Program experiences shaping residents’ philosophies and practices of teaching STEM?
How is the community-based partner organization benefited by Soar into STEM residents?