DIGITS pairs STEM professionals – individuals who work in science and technology-based companies – with sixth-grade classes throughout the state to increase students’ interest in math and science subjects and careers.
The DIGITS concept is based on a uniquely designed alphabet with a STEM icon embedded in each letter. The name was selected because research indicates that math is the biggest barrier to STEM careers. By using a math term and making it engaging and kid friendly, the program is able to break through the math barrier and show students many ways in which numbers are used in their daily lives.
DIGITS in the Classroom
Schools with sixth grades are invited to participate and interested schools voluntarily “opt in” to the program. Each DIGITS classroom visit takes one period (approximately 45 – 50 minutes) and volunteers are asked to visit 2-4 math/science classes. No work is required of teachers to prepare for the visit and there is no cost to the school to participate. Class visits are scheduled at a mutually convenient time for both the teachers and the volunteers.
The DIGITS program provides volunteers with all the classroom materials they need for a successful visit.
During the classroom visit, the volunteer engages students in four kinds of activities:
- Hands-on “names” activity where students spell their names using the special DIGITS alphabet stickers and are asked to envision themselves in a STEM career based on the letters/icons in their names;
- STEM volunteer’s description of their personal career story designed to inspire students;
- Dialogue based on a colorful, multi-cultural poster that highlights the advantages and benefits of STEM jobs to which students can aspire; and
- Interactive, DIGITS alphabet card-sorting exercise that reinforces students’ knowledge of STEM careers.
These activities are supplemented by a DIGITS theme song and music video, available on the DIGITS website and given by the volunteer to the teacher in the form of a DVD. Teachers are asked to show students the music video, which reinforces program messages, as a follow-up to the classroom presentation. The DIGITS website – www.digits.us.com - is the portal to information about the program for teachers, volunteers, and corporate partners.
Follow-up to DIGITS Classroom Experience – Teacher Resource Package (TRP)
Based on feedback that teachers would like access to more STEM resources, and with the strategic goal of increasing the program’s impact on sixth grade students, DIGITS has developed a Teacher Resource Package to provide teachers (who have hosted a DIGITS volunteer) with additional STEM education activities and resources that can be used as a follow-up to the DIGITS classroom presentation. Teachers are encouraged to take advantage of these assembled resources and to consider doing a STEM activity (either from the TRP or other sources) at least once a month. (The password-protected TRP will be available in the fall of 2012, and accessible from the DIGITS website.)
The Teacher Resource Package contains five types of activities and services:
- Hands-on exercises which can be done in the classroom
- Online offerings that are web-based and generally contain lesson plans, teacher guides, and learning resources
- Site visits that focus on math and science education that complement students’ classroom work
- Teacher support services that are available to assist teachers and schools in math and science-based after-school activities
- STEM career activities that expand students’ knowledge of STEM careers and opportunities
Teachers are also encouraged to recommend additional worthwhile STEM activities for inclusion in the Teacher Resource Package by sending a description to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The role of DIGITS volunteers, called STEM Ambassadors, is a crucial one. They inspire and motivate students and deliver the fundamental message about the importance of taking math and science as the foundation for and gateway to many exciting career possibilities.
Volunteers come from key STEM sectors – including information technology, engineering, life sciences, manufacturing, clean energy, and others – and are representative of the workforce as a whole – including gender balance and ethnic diversity.
DIGITS trains all volunteers before they enter the classroom to ensure a uniform, high-level of message delivery and classroom interaction, provides them with ‘best practices’ in presenting to sixth graders, matches them to schools near where they live or work, and supplies them with all the program materials they need to successfully deliver the program in the classroom.