“Evaluating the city’s STEM mentoring pilot” on Technical.ly/philly

April 29th, 2015


Evaluating the city’s STEM mentoring pilot

By Andrew Buss | Posted 28 April 2015, 10:27 am

How can government technology employees interact with middle school students in a way that is meaningful for everyone?

That was the challenge faced by the Office of Innovation & Technology (OIT), along with the Mayor’s Office of Education, as we collaboratively designed and implemented a STEM mentoring program for ten middle school students from the Chester A. Arthur School in South Philadelphia.

As part of a national initiative called US2020, with the stated goal of matching one million STEM mentors with students by the year 2020, earlier this year our two offices agreed to host students for an eight-week series of sessions about technology. As we reflect on the experience, we believe the students gained a lot but that we probably learned just as much.

We’ve identified three keys that made our program successful as a pilot effort and one that can be replicated in city government and other institutions as well:

1. We developed a program, not just an event.

Many of us have participated in a “career day.” While valuable, these single sessions don’t provide enough time or continuity for students to become comfortable working with one another or their mentors. It’s also hard in one session to create any sort of meaningful project capable of synthesizing information and experiences.

Because our program included an eight-week sequence of classes immersing students in the work of different divisions within OIT, we were able to connect these individual sessions to an overall goal: designing a “cool school.” Additionally, students and mentors developed professional familiarity with one another and by the end of the program worked together easily on their “cool school” project. Although it requires more time and effort to develop a series of sessions connected to a common theme, the level of learning increases significantly.

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