A Year Of STEM Outreach In Local Communities

The Miss America Organization provides countless opportunities for young women to make a difference in their communities. Both state and local titleholders earn thousands of dollars in scholarship money in recognition for their volunteer efforts. Every young lady in the organization spends a year promoting a platform they are passionate about.

Currently, I am in my senior year of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, and I love sharing my love for STEM with others through the platform provided by Miss America. As Miss Diamond State 2018, I am spending the year promoting science outreach in my community of Delaware. Engaging in K-12 STEM outreach is an incredibly rewarding effort, but figuring out the details of outreach events can be a tricky task. Herein, I hope to share some advice for getting started with STEM outreach and inspire others to get involved.

Where to start your STEM outreach

One of the first steps towards STEM outreach is arranging event locations. Local museums can be a great starting point for beginning STEM outreach. Museums are equipped with tools and connections to create interactive exhibits and activities for guests. Many children’s and science museums already have events and activities in place, and they are always looking for volunteers to expand upon existing events and create new ideas. Furthermore, reaching out to museums for volunteering can help build a network of local schools and community centers for increasing the impact of outreach efforts.

Selecting science activities for demonstrations can also be a challenge. Experiments should to be the perfect balance of fun, educational, simple, and safe. One of my favorite STEM activities is making “Coding Bracelets” with kids. In this activity, kids learn about binary numbers and computer coding with an interactive demonstration. The only required materials are string and colored beads, and jewelry clasps can be added to enhance the craft. In the activity, you assign “0” and “1” to different colored beads (for example, red = 0, blue = 1). Kids select a number, usually their birthdate, and create a bracelet with that number in binary based on the bead colors. The activity can easily be adjusted to many age groups by changing the complexity of the discussion around computer language. Plus, the kids get to take home their work, which is always great!

STEM outreach in communities

Volunteering at museums and creating STEM activities for kids is always a rewarding experience, but increasing the impact of your efforts will make the volunteering even more worthwhile. Consider reaching out to kids in low-income and at-risk communities. K-12 students in these areas often do not have access to the same STEM educational resources that students do in more affluent areas.

One potential option is to work with a local museum and see if they would be willing to arrange transportation for students from a low-income area to have a free or reduced-cost STEM field trip. Another option is to organize groups of volunteers to go into schools in at-risk areas and hold STEM activities. Furthermore, there are many non-profit groups that work with students in underprivileged areas with STEM outreach. One of my favorite organizations to get involved with is Fouryouth Productions, which provides after-school science and art classes as well as summer camps for students in Wilmington, DE. With a few internet searches, it shouldn’t be hard to find a non-profit doing similar work near you, or better yet, consider starting the effort if it doesn’t already exist!

Overall, STEM outreach is a super fun way to make a difference in the community. Be creative with your activities, and try to reach out to communities who need it most. If you are interested in more ideas for science outreach, please follow my social media pages!

About the author:

Victoria Grace Muir is an Honors Program senior at the University of Delaware in chemical engineering. She researches polymers and biomaterials, and she will start her PhD in chemical engineering in Fall of 2018 at either MIT, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, or University of Minnesota (still deciding!). Outside of academics, Victoria promotes her platform of STEM Outreach as Miss Diamond State 2018, which is a local preliminary title to the Miss Delaware Scholarship Competition in June (part of Miss America). Medelita has supported Victoria by donating a personalized lab coat for her science outreach demonstrations. As Miss Diamond State, Victoria promotes fundraising for the Children’s Miracle Network, which provides funds to local children’s hospitals for research and family financial assistance. She has raised over $600 since November 2017, and her goal is to raise $2,000 by June 2018. Online donations to Victoria’s CMN efforts are accepted here.