STEM Engaged Learning

Processes to Learn From

We used a variety of processes to encourage the development of STEM service learning, including:

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Laying the Foundation Subgrants

In order to expand service learning in STEM, we first had to know what was already happening in STEM departments and what opportunities existed. So, CSU campuses had the opportunity to apply for $4,000 “Laying the Foundation” subgrants. Fifteen campus service-learning offices hosted brown bag lunches for STEM faculty, facilitated workshops or symposia, conducted surveys and met with individual faculty involved in the community. They reached out to each STEM department to better understand what was already happening and determine what opportunities existed.


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Self-Assessment Rubric for the Institutionalization of Service-Learning in University STEM Departments

This self-assessment rubric, adapted from the work of Andrew Furco, University of California, Berkeley, 1999 (revised in 2002, 2003, 2006) and based on the Kecskes/Muyllaert Continuums of Service Benchmark Worksheet, was designed to assist campuses in gauging their progress to institutionalize service learning in their campus STEM departments. Each CSU campuses completed the assessment in order to create a progress plan to expand STEM service learning.


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Engaged Department Institute in the Sciences

The institute for the sciences took place in June 2011 in Long Beach, CA. Led by a facilitator and four expert presenters, teams explored the landscape of community engagement and what engagement means in their contexts; assessed where they were as Engaged Departments; envisioned where they want to be; gathered ideas and resources and developed plans to help them get to that vision; and engaged with and learned from community engagement colleagues. The agenda for the institute (.pdf) outlines the topics discussed.

Teams were competitively selected through a written application (.pdf). Once they were accepted to participate, but prior to the institute, teams were asked to draft a pre-Institute plan (.pdf) to develop community engagement in their department.

As a result of institute participation, each team developed an action plan, including a vision, goals and first steps. Read the evaluation report from the institute.

Teams then received $5,000 subgrants to accomplish steps to reach their “visions for engagement.” Examples of team projects:

CSU Bakersfield: the chemistry department, in collaboration with the student chemistry club and several K-12 after-school programs, developed and hosted Chemical Circus, a series of engaging, entertaining and educational chemistry activities designed to promote interest in science among youth and engage CSUB chemistry students. Read a reflection from team leader Assistant Professor Danielle Solano, The Chemistry of Fun. Additionally, the department RTP guidelines were revised to more formally incorporate community engagement into faculty responsibilities (pending approval by the Dean), and service learning was incorporated into both general education and major courses. Finally, the Chemistry Department was one of only nine winners nationwide to receive funding from “Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in STEM Education.”

CSU Fresno: the chemistry department enhanced their curriculum by incorporating service-learning activities into their general education Chemistry and Society course, the first-year undergraduate general chemistry laboratories, and into an upper-division major course in analytical chemistry. As a result, in 2011-2012, 500 student volunteers contributed 1,800 hours of service to create 16 finalized science kits, facilitate “Saturday Science visits” at the Discovery Science Center, and created 25 other demonstrations to be used with primary and secondary-level students. Read how CSU Fresno students brought “cool chemistry experiments” to K-12 students. Watch this video to learn more about the experiences of the Fresno State's chemistry department.

Read more about the Engaged Department Institute approach in the CSU.

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Innovation Subgrants

We believed that innovation would help to expand STEM service learning across CSU campuses. So, we provided $25,000 subgrants to five campuses to implement innovative approaches to strengthening STEM service learning that could be utilized by other colleges and universities. Descriptions of their projects follow.

CSU Chico: More than 120 students participated in developing STEM projects that were presented to hundreds of school-aged children and the general public at the Gateway Science Museum. In addition to the successful engagement of both college and K-12 students, project director Dr. Rachel Teasdale was able to identify four successful approaches to involving STEM faculty and service-learning students in museum education: demonstration lab model; development of hands-on activities; creation of exhibits or components of exhibits; and support for the physical operation of the Museum (i.e. the development of a rainwater reuse system by engineering students). These approaches can be helpful models for other campus-museum partnerships to involve STEM students in service learning.

CSU Fresno: Dr. Eric Person, assistant professor of chemistry, led the efforts to evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of three STEM service-learning course models. Two courses, chemistry and physics, used the tutoring model, and another physics course had students using a planetarium docent model.

CSU Monterey Bay: The STEM Service-Learning Learning Community, comprised of six STEM faculty and 12 community partners, met on a regular basis to examine the relationship of student learning to the depth of the partnership between the faculty and the community partners. A “partnership assessment rubric” and accompanying training webinar were created, as were additional service-learning curricula.

CSU San Marcos: Dr. Bianca Mothé, professor of biological sciences, and her partners opened a Science Center at a local elementary school, involving many CSUSM STEM students to provide engaging science activities connected to the state standards. As a complement, CSUSM students then designed and ran an after-school Science Camp for at-risk middle school students. Finally, CSUSM math students ran a series of workshops open to the parents of these youth, to help boost math literacy and confidence among adults who need to assist children with homework.

Sonoma State: The Center for Community Engagement implemented the Sustainable Waterways Educational Engagement Program (SWEEP) to embed service learning in STEM through the theme of sustainability. Course models, partnership tools, and a course sustainability checklist are all available on the SWEEP website.