A five-day STEM Extension program in July 2017 provided ten blind or low-vision college-bound students with a full-access experience in college chemistry and physics labs as part of Summer Academy, a three week college transition program hosted by the PA Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Bureau of Special Education.
Three MRSEC grad students served as Science Mentors and received special training, guided by instructional faculty. MRSEC outreach staff coordinated the program with all stakeholders, including Science U, which provides logistical support. STEM Extension will continue in 2018–2020 as a weekend attended by all twenty-four Summer Academy participants and also Teachers of the Visually Impaired.
“…in the science lab I’m told…to go sit in the corner and do homework or just play on my phone, so it was actually nice to be in this week’s program because I actually got to participate and learn some interesting stuff…Next year I’m going into Chemistry and … I’ll be able to prove to my teacher that I’m able to do [it]. I have pictures of it for proof.”
Hired a PhD student in the College of Ed to lead it. Methodology included video observations and transcripts, exit interviews, written work, and surveys. Data is being folded into the larger Summer Academy evaluation effort, and falls under that IRB approval.
Summer 2017 program assessments resulted in the following outcomes/decisions:
1. All participants in Summer Academy would benefit from the program, rather than a select few who chose to extend their experience since all students should be given the skills to “self advocate for full participation in their high school science classes”. Therefore, future programs will take place with all students over a long weekend during the existing program.
2. Writing skills are important for success in STEM majors and careers and their development needs to be focused upon more strongly. Therefore, the STEM Extension curriculum will emphasize this importance and integrate STEM writing assignments with broader Summer Academy curricula.
3. Due to the unique skills and strengths that each group brings to the experience, TVI’s and Science Mentors will jointly participate in a training session prior to the implementation of the program with students, rather than holding two separate training sessions.