Think back. Who motivated you to follow a STEM path? Chances
are it was someone who made science both real and fun. This is something
AISES members can do, and I encourage you to inspire the future by
visiting a local school. This voluntary personal initiative aims to
promote science through interaction and perhaps a simple activity —
seeing science in action makes young minds want to learn more!
Activities could include talking about how science is relevant to
real-life career options, designing a new product, or illustrating basic
principles with an easy experiment (check out YouTube for ideas).
Judging science fairs is another way to be involved that you and the
students would enjoy. Through these interactions, students get a taste
of the excitement scientists and engineers experience.
AISES volunteers are especially welcomed at schools that cannot
afford much science enrichment. It’s particularly important that all
students, including those in rural areas and on reservations, have
access to exciting, hands-on STEM learning experiences that get them
thinking about science — and science careers — in ways they never
imagined. I can attest that it’s a win-win also for the “science
ambassadors,” who gain the satisfaction of igniting enthusiasm.
“Children who get to see practicing professionals at different career stages, doing different types of science, see a science path as normal from a young age.”
Many students have never met a scientist or engineer of any kind, so
they don’t think of becoming one. It’s particularly important that young
people interact with female scientists and engineers to dispel ”any
lingering stereotypes about the potential for women to succeed in
Personal AISES interactions can and do affect attainment: children
are more motivated to work hard after meeting amazing professionals and
see that science can be fun, interesting, and entertaining. They form
relationships and start thinking, “I want to be like him or her!”
Demystifying science by interacting with secondary students,
especially, helps them envision a technical career. Evidence shows there
is also great value in early interactions. Children who get to see
practicing professionals at different career stages, doing different
types of science, see a science path as normal from a young age.
The main reason young people don’t pursue science and math is because
they see these subjects as “too hard.” I always try to leave students
with the idea that science is really about exploring our world and
solving problems — it’s much bigger than memorizing facts or doing
experiments. When students interact with real-world practicing
professionals, they come away with a strong message that everyone has an
equal chance to do science.
We want to show students how science is relevant to their lives, and
to inspire more to consider STEM via an open discussion. Expect
questions like “What kinds of pets does a scientist have?” “Do you play
any sports?” “How did you decide where to go to college?” “What were
your favorite classes?” “What exactly did you study?” You can point out
that an interest in science can find a fit with practically any other
field — science doesn’t have to be research in a lab.
I love making classroom visits because it’s a great opportunity to
get the next generation excited about science. Of course, not everybody
needs to be a scientist, but young people need to be aware of the value
of science so they can decide whether a STEM career is a good fit for
them. And because AISES volunteers come from a wide variety of
educational backgrounds, we can cover many different STEM-related
topics. Based upon personal visitations in schools, I highly recommend
the experience of sharing our career backgrounds, education, and jobs to
enhance the future of our people and the nation.
— J.C. Elliott High Eagle
AISES founding member J.C. Elliott High Eagle, Cherokee, spent a
40-year career at NASA, where he was instrumental in achieving the safe
return of Apollo 13. He was also instrumental in the designation of
November as National Native American Heritage Month.