School of Education Professor Christa Jackson, Ph.D., Launches iSCORE, Transforming the STEM Community One Mind at a Time
Saint Louis University’s School of Education welcomed Christa Jackson, Ph.D. to the teacher-education faculty in August 2021. Now, she is making great strides in providing underrepresented students access and opportunities in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) through the Institute for STEM Collaboration, Outreach, Research, and Education (iSCORE).
iSCORE aims to provide access and opportunity to elementary, middle and high school students to broaden the STEM ecosystem locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Underrepresented populations in STEM (i.e., Blacks, Latinx, Indigenous populations, girls, economically disadvantaged students, students classified for special education services, Emergent Multilinguals, and potential first-generation college students) are a key focus of the institute’s initiatives. “The STEM ecosystem begins with fostering students’ sense of belonging in STEM disciplines, which is a central tenet of iSCORE,” said Jackson.
iSCORE Experiences and Opportunities
A goal of iSCORE is to provide professional learning experiences to K-12 teachers to implement integrated STEM lessons into their classrooms and deepen their knowledge of integrated STEM content and practices.
iSCORE also provides access and opportunities for PreK-12 students to authentically engage in STEM learning experiences in both formal and informal environments where they develop their identities as STEM learners by beginning to view themselves as scientists, mathematicians, and/or engineers. Through iSCORE, Jackson provides high-quality STEM learning experiences to students so they can see the utility and applicability of STEM disciplines, which addresses the old adage question of “when am I ever going to use this?”
It’s important to create a sense of belonging so that young scholars can see themselves and others in the STEM fields.”Christa Jackson, Ph.D.
STEM learning experiences are provided via Saturday STEM camps, summer STEM camps, STEM family nights, after-school programs, during students' extended school breaks and during school.
For example, during a Summer Bridge program with Confluence Academies, students had opportunities to apply their engineering, mathematics and science skills in building a launcher that would send a ball to a target. To do this, students set the launcher's power level and positioned its degree angle to produce the correct trajectory for the ball to hit the target. Learners were able to describe how the launcher worked by calculating the velocity, and discussing tension, torsion, and gravity.
In the Summer Scholars program, students developed their understanding of how roller coasters get their momentum and move quickly by creating paper roller coasters. Students applied their understanding of potential and kinetic energy, centripetal force, and centrifugal force to how roller coasters move.
Additionally, the institute provides professional development to industry workforce leaders as they engage youth in STEM learning experiences. Jackson is establishing partnerships with area businesses as another avenue to support scholars in developing and extending their STEM literacy, which are necessary skills for the 21st century. Finally, iSCORE conducts research and evaluation on STEM programs and STEM learning experiences.