Hello, I’m Maureen Burke and I recently participated in The STCC STEM Starter Academy Internship in conjunction with The Springfield High School of Science and Technology. It was an internship program for STEM students who were considering becoming a STEM educator.  The idea was to remotely observe classes and teach two separate lessons and end with a presentation about our experiences. We were expected to spend about 40 hours total with class time and preparation of the lesson plans and our zoom meetings (or debriefing sessions) where my fellow interns and our mentor, Ms. Cherry, and I were able to brainstorm ideas and get some insightful and helpful feedback. Did I mention there was a hefty stipend? We were getting paid to go back to high school.

Here is some info about me. I’m scheduled to graduate in May with an associate degree in Computer and IT Security and (I’m going to boast a bit here; fair warning) my GPA is a 4.0, which I think is pretty impressive considering I haven’t been a college student since the 1900’s! Basically, the main reason I applied was to use the stipend to put toward my tuition next semester. I also figured it would look great on my resume and I would be able to meet some other STEM students and maybe make some connections that would help after I graduate.  I found it ironic that money was what motivated me but the knowledge and skills I learned are much more valuable than a paycheck.

I was accepted to the program along with four other (female) Springfield Technical Community College students, all of us study STEM in some way or another, and we were to be mentored by Ms. Jennifer Cherry, The Science Department Chair at the High School and the Biomedical Science and AP Environmental Science teacher. It was not lost on any of us that women in STEM are underrepresented and it was a rarity to have a group of women in a STEM program. 

Our mission was to observe Ms. Cherry’s two classes for a week and sit in on a full day of school. We had to prepare an “activator” which is just a hook to get the students interested in what they were going to be learning that day. My activator was a Kahoot. It is an online trivia game that anyone can play if they have the code. It was a lot of fun to devise and play and it made me really appreciate the work that goes into making a 10-question multiple choice game about bacteria. We also had to plan a mini-teach for the Biomedical Science class. Ms. Cherry gave us complete freedom with the topic, our parameters were that it had to be at minimum 15 minutes, but we could take the entire class time if we wanted.  My topic was “Nano-Technology and The Future.” I had the idea from watching the movie “Big Hero 6”, and you’d better believe I used a clip from it as the opener for my presentation! It was a discussion on how we might use nanobots to find and destroy cancer cells. I wanted to stress that a career in science is more science and less fiction, and if they chose, they could be the very people to work on these and other technologies in a few short years. The other lessons were so informative and interesting, and the students and I were engaged and engrossed. They are as follows: The History of Medicine; The Effects of Drugs on The Brain; Strokes-How to Recognize Them and Assist Someone Who’s Having One and Bacteria and Produce.

After we finished our two lessons, we had to prepare a presentation about our experiences for the people that organized the program, from STCC to Sci-Tech. The Interim Dean of STCC was in attendance, as well as the Head of The Science Department for Springfield Public schools. No pressure, right? There were a group of STCC Professors as well as educators from Sci-Tech. I was happy to see Dr. Reena Randhir there; she offered us great advice about our presentations and enlisted me to write this blog you’re reading right now.