Mentoring Awe and Success

LogoCampAs Jessa explained, we’re doing a month worth of mentoring posts in honor of October 11  International Day of the Girl, a day marked by UN resolution for “promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.” In my day job, I teach physics at a community college and being a woman in a predominately male profession, recruiting women into Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is especially dear to my heart.

Last year, I received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant aimed at recruiting and retaining more female students in Information Systems (IS). One project that came out of that grant was a day-long Information Technology (IT) camp for middle school girls where they learned about computers, coding, and networking. We held that first camp earlier this summer.

My colleague Michele and I planned on running the camp with some of our current female IS students’ help. We started meeting weekly with those students to come up with a plan for the event. We had budgeted for about five students to help us out.

At the very first meeting with these IS students, it was very clear that we were going to be working with some amazing women.

?

1st surprise: Nine students showed up to the initial meeting, eight of those remained with us for the project’s duration.

2nd surprise: Instead of waiting for our guidance, the students went off and did their own research, and then presented a day-long curriculum that would teach hardware, software, and networking by installing and configuring the popular game Minecraft on Raspberry Pi micro-computers.

3d surprise: When asked to think about marketing, the students showed us a logo and a flyer that they had already designed. They wanted t-shirts with the new logo made for each of the campers. And they wanted each of the participants to be able to take home their Raspberry Pi.

At this point, it was very clear to us that we should take a step back and let the students run the show. We helped them create lessons plans to achieve the outcomes they wanted, but they took ownership of everything else. Because of the school’s administrative rules, we had to set up registration and advertising, but on the day of the camp the students were the ones in the classroom teaching the middle-graders. My colleagues and I were the gofers who collected permission slips, got snacks ready, and picked up pizza for lunch.

During this project, Michele and I became the mentees as much as we mentored. And our IS students became the best possible mentors for the middle school girls. The 88 girls who attended the camp were surveyed before and after the event. We had some amazing results. Here are the three questions that had the highest percentage change in the number of girls who strongly agreed or agreed:

  1. I know what a software application is. (increase 59.9%)
  2. I am comfortable with programming. (increase 30.8%)
  3. I am proficient with technology and computers. (increase26.1%)

MineCraftThese percentage change figures are unusually high when compared with other camps of this kind and similar questions, which usually produce figures in the 5% to 20% range.

Our IS students were also praised by the camp participants:

“I think this was a FABULOUS camp and I would really recommend that the college does this again!! :)”

“The college students mentors were very helpful and explained everything really well.”

“Today was an awesome way to learn about computers and to make new friends. it was an awesome experience I learned so much and it will be helpful in the future when it comes to picking a job. I don’t regret coming here even for a second. also when I first came here I didn’t know much but now I now more than I thought I would even learn in any other class.” 

I’m convinced that the success of the project is due entirely to how fantastic our IS students were. They lead hands-on practical activities instead of lecturing to the students. And of course, the middle school students related much better to our twenty-something college students than they would to middle-aged professors. J

We’ll repeat the camps for two more summers, that’s how long the NSF grant lasts. Maybe we’ll be able to find additional funding after that. I hope so, because our Day of IT truly became a day of magic.

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About Asa Maria Bradley

2016 Double RITA finalist, romance author, news junkie, physics instructor, and diver. Loves Norse mythology, ranch dressing, and cop shows. Lives with husband and rescue dog of indeterminate breed in Pacific Northwest. Represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Writers about sexy modern-day Vikings. More at www.asamariabradley.com and @AsaMariaBradley.

Posted on September 21, 2015, in Auth: Asa Maria Bradley, Empowerment and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Wow! This is a great opportunity for young women. I wish there were things like this when I was their age. Crossing my fingers that your grant $$$ continues long past 2 years. If not, let’s do a fundraiser 🙂

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  2. That is so cool that they are self starters and don’t wait for someone else to guide them 🙂 Love hearing that!

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  3. Very cool Asa. What a great project and awesome students!

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