In this three-part series, Wayne State University honors students reflect on their experiences of teaching the free ten-week Wikid GRRLs curriculum in Detroit Public Schools in the winter semester of 2016.
By Ramona Stamatin
This semester, I took the course HON 4940 Wikid GRRLs – Teaching Girls Online Skills for Knowledge Projects. This program is focused on increasing interest in Wikipedia and improving online skills of middle school-aged girls. It is important to intervene earlier than high school in order interest girl students in choosing a STEM career. I learned this from reading an article about a project that aimed to gauge interest in STEM careers for middle school students.
During the semester, I visited a Detroit Public School once a week to teach girls and I met once a week in class with my professor to discuss teaching experiences. At first, teaching seemed very daunting. I took the challenge head-on by actually presenting to the class a lot more than my co-teacher (another honors student) on the first day of lessons. After that, I learned how to balance our time teaching in the classroom. Every week, we went over different lessons that focused on topics such as internet safety, researching in efficient ways, how to make a Prezi, how to conduct online surveys, etc. The teaching experience was very enriching. It also made me realize I don’t want to teach for the rest of my life.
Teaching definitely had its difficulties. For example, at least three classes were cancelled, because of breaks that either the Detroit Public Schools or Wayne State University had in their semester schedule. Also, there was inconsistent attendance from the participating girls. I believe an easy way to ensure that the girls attend every week is by e-mailing the parents reminders every week to make sure they do not pick up the students until after the program.
That was the teaching aspect, but there was also a research aspect. I conducted surveys and interviews on the first day of lessons with the girls, then transcribed the interviews and analyzed them for recurring themes in the girls’ answers. It was a good introduction to undergraduate research. I also read other research papers and analyzed them in blog post, one addressed the dearth of computer science classes in U.S. K-12 schools; another one summed up a study that showed hands-on STEM projects with girls can increase their interest in STEM fields.
I am thankful to have had the opportunity to impact the community in Detroit and I want to continue to stay involved in other ways, such as after-school tutoring