ChangeMakers STEM Program for high school students

**ChangeMakers is currently under development and is a collaboration between Branches, the Faculty of Engineering's E-IDEA program, other McGill units and partner schools in Kahnawá:ke and Verdun. The text below is excerpted from a funding application and if received, the goal is to launch a pilot version of the program during the 2021-22 academic year. For more information please contact anurag.dhir [at] (Anurag Dhir)anurag.dhir [at] "> **


“The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it, and turn it inside out.”

— Anonymous


There is a need for ongoing, sustained relationship building and culturally relevant pedagogy to increase students’ access to —and success in— STEM fields (Ridgeway & Yerrick, 2018; Tan & Barton, 2010). In order to draw underrepresented groups into STEM, young people must see how their real lives (culture, language, tradition, aspiration) connect to the tools and practices they’re engaging with. Additionally, ensuring equity and diversity in STEM fields requires intervention at all stages of the educational and career pipeline and relevant support for and cooperation with underrepresented populations.

Using mandatory Science Fair projects as an entry point to work with youth, ChangeMakers merges real-world, project-based learning with student-led inquiry in a multi-disciplinary and community-based context. Immersive learning experiences will provide spaces for students from grades 7 to 9—with mentoring opportunities for grades 10 & 11—to engage with the engineering design cycle as one framework for identifying a ‘problem’ and finding ways to solve it and explore it from multi-disciplinary perspectives. University student volunteers work with these students in class and during after-school sessions, while working in teams with adult mentors to explore and create across both local and global contexts.

We believe there are rich founts of knowledge residing within each child and a plethora of resources within our communities that can be offered as a complement to school norms and teaching approaches. ChangeMakers intends to act as one conduit for these community resources and youth perspectives to come together, share knowledge, and build and test solutions together. By creating a cooperative student-centered learning experience, youth receive support they need to better express what they know and are encouraged to solve problems, get a feel for science, and experience the pleasure at building something that contributes to their communities.

What we want to offer

  • We want to foster reciprocal and responsive partnerships through shared vision and communication, about access to education especially for the youth in need of additional support, through more experiential learning and mentorship;
  • We want to work with youth through practices that connect with their identities, leading to transformation of roles (i.e. teacher-student, expert-learner) when necessary;
  • We aim to find ways for youth to understand the world and contribute to its improvement, through design thinking and experiential learning;
  • Our challenge is to dialogue with various traditions of science teaching and learning with a more respectful, patient, connected and accepting pedagogical stance, where a variety of discourse norms could be practiced;
  • It is important to draw upon students’ sources of knowledge to engage them, while simultaneously validating their own experiences as an integral part of STEM learning (Gonsalves, 2014; Seiler, 2013);
  • We want to promote Citizen Science, providing means by which citizens can better their own community through the study of local environments, transformation and social change (Bang et al 2010)

Seven Core Assumptions*

  1. The true self in everyone is good, wise, and powerful
  2. The world is profoundly interconnected
  3. All human beings have a deep desire to be in a good relationship
  4. All human beings have gifts, and everyone is needed for what they bring
  5. Everything we need to make positive change is already here
  6. Human beings are holistic
  7. We need practices to build habits of living from the core self

* Excerpted from Heart of Hope and Circle Forward, by Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Kay Pranis. 2010, Living Justice Press


How Students can Engage with ChangeMakers from Grades 7-11: 

Tiered approach to the engineering cycle embedded in curriculum



Bang, M., Medin, D., Washinawatok, K., & Chapman, S. (2010). Innovations in culturally based science education through partnerships and community. In M. Khine & I. Saleh (Eds.), New science of learning: Cognition, computers and collaboration in education (pp. 569–592). New York: Springer.DOI:10.1007/978-1-4419-5716-0_28.

Gonsalves, A (2014). Persistent discourses in physics education: gender neutrality and the gendering of competence. Cult Stud of Sci Educ (2014) 9:461–467, DOI: 10.1007/s11422-012-9423-1

Ridgeway, M.L. & Yerrick, R.K. (2018). Whose banner are we waving? Exploring STEM

partnerships for marginalized urban youth. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 13:59–84,

Seiler, G (2013). Reconstructing Science Curricula Through Student Voice and Choice. Education and Urban Society 45(3) 362–384, DOI: 10.1177/0013124511408596

Tan, E. & Barton, A.C. (2010). Transforming Science Learning and Student Participation in Sixth Grade Science: A Case Study of a Low-Income, Urban, Racial Minority Classroom, Equity & Excellence in Education, 43:1, 38-55, DOI: 10.1080/10665680903472367

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