Using NASA Resources to Nourish Community-Based Partnerships

The NASA FAMA Central Texas for Minority Youth is a partnership of Texas State University and three regional school districts including San Marcos CISD, Lockhart ISD, and Hays CISD that provides integrated year-round STEM programming to underrepresented student populations.  The goal and objective is to build interest, skills and knowledge necessary for K-12 students to pursue STEM careers by engaging them in authentic STEM experiences built around NASA mission content. There are four program elements. The first includes an intensive STEM engagement for students in the form of FAMA STEM Saturdays and summer camps. Secondly, teachers and schools are invited to participate in a NASA Backpack Program connecting to the larger STEM ecosystem. The third focuses on creating technology-rich environments and experiences. Finally, the fourth element engages families through family community outreach engaging families, parents, and caregivers. NASA FAMA Central Texas Minority Youth is a MUREP funded effort to increase the number of historically underserved and underrepresent students in NASA specific STEM careers at no cost to the students or their families.

Although the program elements focus on students and their families, teachers are an essential part of the process. Teachers become the champions for such programming to be successful.  NASA Education Specialists have utilized NASA resources to create the curriculum that is utilized on STEM Saturdays and weekly prepare educators through hands-on professional development sessions. These professional sessions have provided a creative space for educators to familiarize themselves with the engineering design process and seize opportunities in working with equipment such as drones, robotics and hydroponics chambers. One participant said “This is great. I always wanted to know how to do robotics but never actually had the chance. I’m getting it.”  Teachers have utilized the NASA education resources to guide students through STEM activities which integrate the engineering design process creatively through hands-on activities many of which require recyclable materials creating critical thinking opportunities at a low cost.

This partnership with the community has provided the basis to build capacity and sustainability in creating a STEM culture for a traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations.  The communities were also exposed to NASA online educational resources including access to webinars featuring NASA topics, badging opportunities at no cost to the participants, and access to the FAMA Family Backpack Guide, which is equipped with bilingual resources for teachers featuring the Engineer Design Process.

 

Sara Garcia-Torres
Educator Professional Development Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
Texas State University