At the Emily Krzyzewski Center in downtown Durham, fifth through eighth grade students were given the challenge of developing a service-learning project for the spring semester. They chose gang education as their focus. They researched information on local gang presence and factors for joining gangs.
At the same time, these students were participating in a program called Pathways to Cyberinfrastructure, which was teaching them to develop their own webpages. They learned the mechanics of HTML coding, linking to other relevant webpages, design and layout, and developing content.
These two learning experiences merged to create the unique opportunity for each student to develop their own webpage exhibiting what they learned about gang prevention. This partnership between two non-profit organizations with a common vision is significantly impacting the lives of Durham’s urban youth.
Shodor, a national resource for computational science education, established their Pathways to Cyberinfrastructure program in 2006. The goal was to design a scalable, replicable, adaptable program that develops a workforce capable of using Cyberinfrastructure. This community outreach initiative partners with organizations like the Emily K Center to target underrepresented kids, giving them exposure to different careers and opportunities.
“Our staff working together with Shodor’s educators make a good team,” says Adam Eigenrauch, Director of Education at Emily K Center. “Shodor provides the expertise in technology and our staff knows our students and how to encourage them to be their best,” he adds. The students become interested and engaged in science and technology in a way that they have never experienced, and are able to apply their new skills to projects they are doing in school, says Eigenrauch.
“One of the things that makes this program really fulfilling is that we are able to reach students that don’t even have computers in their homes and influence them at an early age,” highlights Patricia Jacobs, associate director of Pathways to Cyberinfrastructure.
Shodor provides mentoring on several levels, which makes its work truly collaborative. In addition to teaching the students 21st century skills, Shodor trains undergraduate students from North Carolina Central University to be workshop instructors. Shodor educators also train teachers to facilitate the workshops independently, so that they can replicate them in their classrooms.
“These workshops are enhancing students’ learning skills, improving homework performance, and demonstrating new techniques to problem solving,” explains Michael Page, Chairman of Antioch Builds Community Board of Directors, one of Shodor’s community partners.
Shodor partners with a broad range of individuals and organizations to further its mission – educators, scientists, students, educational institutions, civic organizations, and area employers. Their programs and online education tools aim to improve math and science education through the effective use of computational science and to encourage students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Robert Panoff, Shodor’s executive director, summarizes the value of their innovative approach like this: “Through computational science, math and science concepts can be demonstrated and explored by educators and students in a visual and interactive way, assigning a new dimension that makes them much easier to explain and grasp.”