Hello! My name is Kimberly Taylor and I am a junior computer science and psychology double major here at Whitman. This year, I am the Walla Walla Public Schools Community Resilience Fellow working at three elementary schools in their 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school programs. Here is my second semester update on my fellowship!
Last semester, I spent the majority of my time working directly with students in the after-school programs. In two of the pictures that I have included, you can see students participating in a Lego robotics activity (there is a broad range of STEM related activities that students can participate in through the after-school program). The pictures I have included show two different steps of this Lego robotics activity: building and programming race cars.
Students use block-based based programming to complete various challenges with their Lego creations. As a CS major and someone who is interested in education as a potential career field, it is fascinating to see how students interact and learn from STEM based activities.
This photo is from an art and crafts activity. Arts and crafts is one of my favorite activities because students can really show off their creativity.
This semester, I have begun the research component of my fellowship. We are measuring changes in resilience in kids who participate in the after-school program. Resilience is someone’s ability to react productively to negative life circumstances and situations. Many areas of your life can help bolster resilience including having positive relationships with friends, a steady and loving family, and supportive communities. We are using survey-based research to determine areas where students feel supported and areas where they might need additional support. Gathering this information from students will allow us to improve the after-school programs in the Walla Walla school district. As a psychology major, being able to do research that will have a real impact on the future funding and support of after-school programs has been really exciting. I can see first hand the importance of research as it measures student experiences and informs public policy.
Wow! This year has really gone by fast. Looking ahead to the last couple of months of my fellowship, I am looking forward to analyzing the results of the research we have conducted. I hope to be able to present my findings in a way that helps the coordinators at each after-school site make improvements to their programs. I am also looking forward to collaborating with my mentors for this fellowship on ways in which the research survey may be improved for next year.
Overall, this experience has been an effective method to connect my coursework with the real world. It has also allowed me to reflect and refine my own career goals (perhaps something related to using research to improve educational policy and practices). I have been inspired by the dedication of my supervisor and the site coordinators to making every students’ experience in the after-school program positive and fulfilling. These dedicated individuals take time to get to know each student and on a daily basis remind the students that they care about them.
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Devereaux