I will love to share with you a recap of the first community engagement and volunteer program I facilitated ‘Project Physics is Fun’. Please read to the end! I am explaining the process from the beginning to the end. Kindly share your thoughts too.
I learned about #Imagination #centers #Lafayette (The program venue) from one of my Professors and mentors – Dr. Shamila Janakiraman Ph.D.
It was during one of my Lab sessions as a Research Assistant in the #Ti-BOT Lab. She walked in and asked about my welfare, family, and academic schedule. Then, She shared with me the fantastic job Imagination Station Lafayette does encouraging your #kids to #develop #lifelong #interest in #STEM. She explained how she felt that aligns with my #passion for #simplifying the #teaching and #learning of #Physics (#K12), and asked me if I would love to initiate a volunteer Science project.
It was optional, and there was no pressure, but that was the hook for me! I love Physics. Nothing else fulfills like seeing young physics inquirers fall in love with physics over and over again. The thrill that a #community #center around me does that, is overwhelming! I had loved to jump at the offer right away but…I have a lot of #commitments at the moment. I thanked her for trusting and believing in me! I asked for some time to think about it, see how I can work on my schedule, and get back to her.
After two weeks, I reached out to her about my ideas. She was excited and her optimism further boosted my confidence. If Dr. Shamila Janakiraman Ph.D. thinks I can pull this off, then I had better believe I can. Furthermore, we discussed three key hurdles we will need to surmount if the project will succeed as intended.
- Determining the suitability of the project for our target audience (‘Gap analysis must align with instructional objectives’ – Dr. Wanju Huang )
This is because as a researcher immersed in #learning #motivation, I am more interested in the #motivational #design facet of the project, though #ADDIE was our handy guide. Three criteria guided our decision-making after I paid a personal visit to Imagination Center to ask a few questions 😅 including the age range of the kids, the anticipated population size, what the kids loved, etc. Then, special thanks to Sujatha Ramani (The Director) and Dee Bishop. They gladly took me on a tour of the facility and showed me what they have available.
Based on the Visit, we came up with these three criteria.
(i) It must be #completely #engaging and #immersive – Hence it must be #hands_on_learning.
I agree with Spector (2018) that #persistence_on_task is a good indicator of #sustained #motivation. I am an addicted lover of Keller’s (1979, 2002) ARCS theory, therefore I was intentional about the choice of motivational strategies that would sustain the attention of the kids, show them the relevance of their learning, increase – I Can do it and I Did it mindset, and bring them satisfaction.
(ii) The kids must be able to learn enactively and vicariously. For me, it must be learning by doing and doing to learn. #Scaffolding should be provided where appropriate but must be minimized.
(iii) The kids should be able to #explain in their own understanding the #basic #physics required to accomplish what they have done.
So for hurdle one, two options came afloat – #STEM #Kits or #MakerSpaces. I opted for STEM Kits. I found three STEM Kits on Amazon and ordered one. The goal was to evaluate the ease of use and assemblage. It failed the test! However, I presented two other STEM Kits to my Team ( More on that later), and based on our joint review, we choose one and adapted it for our project.
We combined Hands-On Learning with Storytelling/Demonstration to achieve our desired learning objectives (More on that later).
I need to assemble a #team and be specific and intentional about what I want from my team members… Dr. Shamila Janakiraman Ph.D. introduced me to the first member of Team – Nurşah Yakut. She was as passionate and committed to the project as I am. I shared the project goal with Shivani Ramoutar and Aracely Clemente-Tristan, and they both gave me very useful suggestions including creating a #Flyer. I did and added a #barcode that redirects to a #Microsoft_form. I shared the flyer on several platforms. Through the Flyer, Zainab Saka joined the team. Furthermore, through one-on-one personal conversation and sharing of the project idea, Hilary O (Hilary Omoze) and Favour Ojike came on board
After successfully assembling a team of Five; we had several discussions via WhatsApp and Teams. We used #Microsoft #Teams majorly for all key communication and for our virtual meetings. My role became that of a #Physics #Subject #Matter #Expert, and liaison between the team and Sponsor Organization (Imagination Center). I developed the #Storyline, #unscripted_Dialogues and assigned roles to each member of the Team. We had Mr #Force, Mrs. #Motion & Aunty #Energy
Furthermore, I had #one-on-one sessions with each of my team members on how to assemble the selected Kit. I showed them possible errors and how best to fix them. I explained to each of them the applications of the basic principles of physics and allowed them to come up with creative and playful ways to communicate it to the kids. My goal was to ensure that each member of the team is fully equipped to handle each of their sessions, and serve as a facilitator to provide scaffolding help to the kids as they assemble the kits. We created three #infographics.
The specific focus of the infographics was the ‘#Relevance’ construct of Keller’s (1979, 2002) ARCS theory! I was intentional about the choice of #examples and colors. The culture and diversity context of our target audience was prioritized. The examples were aligned to the ages of our audience, and are from things they see every day! They can easily relate to the examples
The third hurdle was financing! How am I going to go about getting the kits? If the project will succeed as planned then we need to be able to provide each kid with their own KIT! We want them all to be fully engaged. We want them to take ownership of the activity, and see us (team members) as guides where appropriate. Dr. Shamila Janakiraman Ph.D. was very instrumental and helpful at this point. She shared with me the possibilities of applying for the Community Engagement and Service Learning Grant. I did and the project was gladly funded by Purdue Community Engagement and Service Learning Grant. That was such a huge relief! We purchased our STEM Kits and Cells. All these three hurdles are not linear hurdles 😅. They are cyclical and iterative, as one feeds into another! The ‘Satisfaction’ construct of Keller’s (1979, 2002) ARCS theory was derived from actually making their own toy car! The feeling of accomplishment and the confidence that came with success was clearly demonstrated as both parents and the kids beamed with joy and smiles.
Over 30 young kids ages 5-13 benefitted from the #PhysicsisFun project, holistically more than 50 people benefited including parents of the kids and the center’s volunteers. Parents kept cheering their kids on and watched with keen interest as the kids assembled the toy cars and tested them. Whenever that happens, the center erupts with claps and joy.
Excerpts from the feedback we got
Doing things like this gives me the most fulfillment! The joy on the faces of the kids, a kid I explained something to and was able to explain to her friends right when I was there was so satisfying! Even learning from the kids! They are so smart😅. One of them showed me the concept of Friction. I wish someone taught me Physics that way when I was a kid. If you need help with any other related activity. Count me in! – Zainab, Saka
I found the activity fun. The kids were amazing and eager to participate in the activities due to the familiarity and conceptual framework that went into the organization and planning. I was impressed by one of the kids who insisted that he wants to be an inventor and actively participated in making his toy car. My takeaways: 1) where is mathematics in the iSTEM? How best can we organize ourselves to capture the moments when students connected with and generated knowledge from activities? – Hilary Omoze
I enjoyed every moment spent with the kids, the team did an excellent job. I will applaud our flexibility, the plans had to change just for the goal to be achieved. We’ll do this again 💪🏽 – Favour Ojike
Thank you for a wonderful event on Saturday. We got so much positive feedback from everyone about your demos. Your team of helpers was also so enthusiastic. Please let them know how much we appreciated all of you. Everyone loved it – Sujatha Ramani Interim Executive Director President of the Board
Enjoy the picture role…