We have continued to provide STEM support to our students virtually by hosting career talks, supporting students with their science work, and hosting our first virtual field trip. Below is a list of the programs that we look forward to continuing in a face-to-face or hybrid learning environment.
Science Fair Mentoring: Scienteers work with students in teams using our science fair curriculum to work through the scientific method and design a science fair project. Teams will meet once a week for up to 14 weeks for 60 minutes per week. The students are assisted by the Scienteers to make sure they compose a testable question, thoroughly research their projects, make and document comprehensive observations, and critically analyze their results with facilitated discussion and brainstorming at each step. The final presentations are on poster boards or laptops. Scienteers also mentor students for science and engineering clubs and prepare them for the district-wide science fair and high school readiness.
Science Fair Competitions: iPraxis sponsors and participates in six school-based science fairs. Students present their completed projects at their school's science fair. Their projects reflect a wide variety of subjects such as: geology, basic physics, chemistry, climate, environmental science, medicine, reverse engineering, bioengineering, coding, and biology. Each student takes a series of quizzes and is graded on their science fair investigation and project. At the completion of the science fair, students that place and demonstrate an interest in competing in the citywide George Washington Carver Science Fair are identified. iPraxis provides mentors to assist the students to further revise their projects and prepare them for increasingly difficult questions and presentations. Any of the students that place in the citywide fair and are selected to move into the regional science fair competition, the tri-state Delaware Valley competition, will be assigned mentors as well.
Science Fair Judging: Scienteers are recruited and trained to judge the school science fairs. Students defend their work to the judges and relate the projects to other STEM topics and careers, thus adding an extra layer of relevance to “real” science. The impact of professional judges is very clear to the students. According to the teachers and school administration, the students feel the need to impress the judges and devote more time and energy to developing the best project and presenting it effectively and with clear evidence. The projects are in-depth and well-constructed leading to students competing in higher levels of science fair competition.
After-school programs: Scienteers support the delivery of specific STEM-related concepts in afterschool activities. These activities are designed to be short-term, in-depth explorations of a science concept, practice, technique, or idea. The support of specialized experts in each field ensures the lessons are educationally age-appropriate, aligned with the mandated school curriculum, knowledge-based, instructive, and enjoyable. As one 8th grade coding student said this past year, “… the project seem(ed) more than just a school assignment and something you could do for the rest of your life. This year was about applying yourself. Not putting information in one ear and letting it fall out the other.”
Presentations and workshops: Experts visit classrooms to deliver interactive presentations or workshops on a specific topic. Experts deliver interactive presentations on alternative energy, fields of vision, sports injuries and healthy choices, watersheds, and other topics related to their field of study. For example, the ASTM-created “Read it, Write it” workshop focuses on creating standards so students write directions to different simple activities accurately so that other students could read the instructions and complete the task.
Site Visits and Field trips: For students to truly appreciate STEM, they must see it in action outside of the classroom. These 2-6 hour site visits are to factories, research institutions, and university laboratories. Our largest field trip is held by the Graduate Association of Bioengineering students at the University of Pennsylvania exclusively for iPraxis students to tour their labs called BETA Day. We provide teachers and students with resource lessons and activities before the trip and take students from all five partner schools. During one previous trip, students learned about robots modeled on animals, including swarming quadcopters, visited a prosthetics lab, watched their muscles “jump” using EKG machines, among other labs and activities.
Philadelphia Science Festival: Historically, iPraxis has participated in the annual Philadelphia Science Festival Carnival. Prior to COVID-19, volunteers would join iPraxis staff members and students to staff the Carnival tent to demonstrate various scientific demonstrations to festival-goers on the Parkway. Our most recent demonstration highlighted what happens inside of the body if you scrape your knee! The Carnival had over 30,000 attendees and approximately 400 visitors to the iPraxis tent. We look forward to participating in this great event in the future when it is safe to do so.
iFunction Recognition Event: The annual culminating activity for students, parents, and Scienteers is iFunction. This event is held annually at University of The Sciences and is an important aspect of the iPraxis program. Student science fair winners are publicly recognized for their achievements and are presented with medals and lab coats acknowledging their hard work. Parents, families, teachers, Scienteers, and community representatives attend and mingle with students. In addition, Scienteers, corporations, and foundations are also recognized for their support and participation. Each year we recognize students and give recognition awards to four or five outstanding supporters.