IUPUI internship program inspires future STEM educators

  • July 15, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

INDIANAPOLIS -- Solving some of the world’s greatest fairy-tale mysteries may be the next breakthrough for young forensic investigators in Indianapolis. Did the big bad wolf actually blow down the three little pigs’ houses? Is Cinderella really the owner of the glass slipper?

Hannah Caito, a senior forensics and biology student at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, uses forensic science to make mysteries like these come to life for visitors of all ages at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

As one of eight science undergraduate students involved in the STEM Summer Internship, Caito works in the interactive biotechnology learning center of the Children’s Museum creating hands-on exhibits that spark and nurture children’s interest in science. Growing up with seven siblings, Caito is a natural around children, but she said she hadn’t seriously considered a career in K-12 STEM education until this internship.

“We had one family that worked together solving the fairy-tale forensic mysteries for about an hour and a half,” she said. “Even the parents thought it was really cool and helped out. Finding creative ways like this to teach children about forensics so that they’ll learn and actually understand what’s going on has been really fulfilling.”

STEM educators are vital for teaching and inspiring future generations of scientists and innovators. Developing current students’ passion for STEM education is an important step that Kim Nguyen, the director of operations in the Urban Center for the Advancement of STEM Education at IUPUI, prides the center’s STEM Summer Internship in accomplishing.

“We have distinguished mentors that help the interns to see teaching is really an important job and how rewarding of a career it can be,” Nguyen said. “Children and interns alike learn from lesson plans that reflect the real world, showing interdisciplinary relationships across all STEM fields.”

The STEM internship engages undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics students in “educationally purposeful activities that allow them the opportunities to examine their interest in and disposition for teaching science in middle or high schools.”

During the internship, students early in their undergraduate careers are paired with STEM education mentors at locations such as the Indianapolis Zoo Education Center, the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and the IUPUI Bepko Learning Center.

IUPUI School of Science Dean Simon Rhodes commends the STEM Summer Internship for developing the interests and skills of undergraduate students in STEM education: “This excellent program supports the development of our students towards being STEM teachers, a career goal that is so important to the future of our state.”

The internship, which pays students a $3,000 stipend for working full time over a seven-week period, also includes a presentation session in which interns share their personal reflections and experiences. The presentations are open to the public and will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, at the IUPUI University Library in Room 1126.

The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The school is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy.

 

Candace Gwaltney