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A Catalyst for Success

Project Catalyst Volunteers
From left: EPS Science Director Ann Ritchie, Keverian School technology teacher Jillian Ells, and STEM volunteers Kaley Brauer (a doctoral student at MIT) and Sarah Lilley of Fidelity Investments.

Keverian Teacher Jillian Ells Helps Lead Innovative STEM Program for Seventh Graders

Citizens School Vice President Kyle Conley looks at the work being down by two Keverian School seventh graders as part of an innovative STEM project.

A Keverian School teacher was selected and trained to participate in an innovative STEM project conceived by Catalyst, in conjunction with Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and Citizen Schools, that partners volunteer STEM professionals with teachers to deliver engaging computer science and robotics experiences to middle school students.
The Keverian School’s Jillian Ells at Keverian School had the honor of launching this successful effort with her seventh-grade students, and the help of volunteers Kaley Brauer and Sarah Lilley. Brauer is working on a Ph.D. at MIT, while Brauer is a User Experience Researcher for Fidelity Investments.
“The volunteers have gone above and beyond to answer my students’ questions,” said Ells. “I hear my students discussing industry level concepts with the volunteers, from coding to debugging programs.  As an educator, Catalyst has allowed me to develop positive relationships with researchers and engineers who I hope can return year after year.”
The volunteers who participated made a significant commitment to the project. Their roles included:

  • Visit the classroom 3-4 times (1 hour each) over a 3-6 week period (April to June)
  • Work with teams of students to improve their designs and presentations
  • Help students work on strategies for collaboration and problem-solving
  • Share stories about your career pathway to help ignite student interest in STEM and job opportunities
  • Network with other dedicated volunteers

Keverian students took the course entitled, “Computer Science for Innovators and Makers.” They were challenged to creatively use sensors and actuators to develop systems that interact with their environment. Designing algorithms and using computational thinking practices, they coded and uploaded programs to microbit microcontrollers that perform a variety of authentic tasks.
In this project, students become innovators and makers. Teams apply their physical computing knowledge and skills as they design and create one of three problem options:

  • A wearable safety device someone might use when completing a physical activity outside at night
  • An engaging art installation to help improve a community space
  • A useful mechanical dispenser for a person or animal who needs assistance to retrieve an object

Volunteers supported students as they worked in groups to design and test their hardware and flowcharts using an iterative process. They asked students questions about their designs to help them think through how their hardware and program will function and how it can be improved.

CITIZEN SCHOOLS
Citizen Schools is building a movement around real-world learning, a pipeline of mentors, and the capacity of schools and communities to deliver a new approach to education – one that will help students develop the skills, mindsets and networks to thrive in the 21st century economy.
Through its programs, Citizen Schools will serve over 100,000 students in 28 communities across the United States – re-imagining the way students learn in the classroom, after school, and in communities – to ensure equal opportunity for all.

MASS STEM HUB
Mass STEM Hub, a program of the One8 Foundation, partners with schools to implement high-quality, applied learning programs. Their mission is to provide schools with access to and support for premier STEM programming that engages students and prepares them for college and 21st century careers. Their first initiative is partnering with Project Lead The Way to increase access to PLTW curriculum and resources, helping classrooms come alive in school across the Commonwealth.

PROJECT LEAD THE WAY
Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for PreK-12 students and teachers across the U.S. PLTW empowers students to develop in-demand, transportable knowledge and skills through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. PLTW’s teacher training and resources support teachers as they engage their students in real-world learning. Approximately 11,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia offer PLTW programs.

CATALYST – PHOTO GALLERY

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