Hey NJ scientists and teachers: Check out this “STEM pen pal” program
As the only scientist working here at the radio station, I love finding new outreach, education, and volunteer opportunities to share my passion and experience for broadcast meteorology.
A friend of mine recently shared a not-so-new venture that I'm going to participate in. And I figured other STEM professionals in New Jersey might be equally interested.
The Letters to a Prescientist program was started in 2010 by a North Carolina educator, to connect students with role models in the realm of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.
It's a simple concept. Scientists sign up to become a pen pal with a middle school age student. Each pair exchanges four letters over the course of a school year. Each exchange has a specific theme, ranging from career paths, to higher education, to obstacles.
Why is this kind of initiative so vital and relevant? The Prescientist.org web site quotes an LPS teacher: "Students often view scientists as people who are inaccessible. They see portrayals of them in the media, but they don’t usually know any real scientists and – by extension – don’t often see themselves in the role of being a scientist."
Students often view scientists as people who are inaccessible. They see portrayals of them in the media, but they don’t usually know any real scientists and – by extension – don’t often see themselves in the role of being a scientist.
And yes, these are physical letters sent via good ol' fashioned snail mail.
Not only do the letters allow for some inspiring advice and interesting conversation, there are clearly cross-curricular opportunities for the teachers who participate. Just learning the art of writing and sending a letter is important!
I'm excited to sign up and hopefully motivate a young scientist out there somewhere.
Interested? Join me in humanizing the science world! Letters to a Pre-scientist is actively recruiting for both teachers and volunteers from all STEM-related fields. And all levels of experience, including "undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, professors, industry professionals, government employees, educators, healthcare professionals, engineers, and more."
There is an application process, since they operate on a one-to-one scientist-to-student match. And there is a brief training at the end of the summer. Program officials estimate it is about a 10-hour commitment in total. (More info and an FAQ is available on their web site.)
New Jersey has an outstanding presence in the science, medical, and tech industries. And education too, of course. So let's have a good showing, for what seems like a very good cause!
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.