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SciSpark Scholars

Connecting University of Minnesota scientists with K-12 partners throughout the Twin Cities to support educators and train the next generation of scientists.

Many of the world’s most pressing issues are grounded in the biological sciences, from the rise of novel diseases to the collapse of ecosystems across the globe. Recruiting, retaining, and training a diverse pool of highly skilled individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is imperative for tackling the great challenges that lie ahead. SciSpark Scholars aims to train this next generation of scientists through four key activities we know are critical for success not only in the classroom, but also for students professionally after graduation: sustained STEM mentorship, student internships, classroom programming and teacher professional development.

Strong mentors can shape the trajectory of a person’s life. The SciSpark Scholars program will connect young students with strong STEM mentors and provide a supported pathway for students into STEM. Research shows that access to role models is an important predictor of success and persistence for students in STEM. Our focus and model includes:

Some of the ways students can engage and work with mentors include specific efforts around supporting Women in STEM and partnerships with the CORE program.

Student Internships
Through research, we also know a critical way for students to not only learn STEM but find their interest and spark to pursue it as a career is engaging with in-depth research and scientific activity. Through SciSpark Scholars, middle and high school students across the Twin Cities will work with University faculty and researchers to gain critical experiences to enhance their knowledge of the world around us, as well as pique their interests to explore STEM as a career choice. 

Classroom Programming
We have to meet students where they’re at, literally. As part of our four-pronged approach, we will work with teachers across the Twin Cities to design and implement classroom programs that can open doors to new inquiries in STEM. From biology to engineering, we plan to create this inquiry-based science curriculum for students in grades 6-12. This step is critical for engaging with students and piquing their interest in STEM where they are at now: the classroom. 

Teacher Professional Development
Through online and in person programming, we offer a scalable teacher development curriculum focused on culturally-responsive STEM instruction. This curriculum brings teachers into the laboratory to experience authentic scientific inquiry and provides time to build relationships with progressional scientists that support teachers in bringing this scientific inquiry back to their classrooms.