This fall, Barnard launched a partnership with a local neighborhood K–8 school in order to grow interest among students—especially girls—in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. The initiative with the Robert E. Simon School (P.S./M.S. 165) is multi-pronged, with several programs underway and others still in development.
One initiative, Barnard Community Involved in Tutoring Youth (CITY) pairs the school’s eighth graders with Barnard students who offer tutoring and homework help in math and science subjects. Another is an after-school program in which Barnard students work with the middle-schoolers to build robots using Legos and design video games. There are also two enrichment programs: College Corner, which introduces young students to the college process, and Moneythink, which teaches money-management skills.
Under the auspices of Barnard’s Office of Career Development, the program has about 17 Barnard tutors. While all programs are designed to help students of both genders, they do focus on young girls who are often stymied by access and achievement gap issues, said Valerie Chow, associate director of civic engagement and experiential learning.
“We have incredible students who are dedicated to giving back to our community, and they are not only able to help the eighth graders in their school work, but they also serve as great role models for them,” she said. “Also, many of our students are interested in issues relating to education equality and access, and I think this tutoring program lets them explore these issues on the ground level.”
As the financial downturn continues to affect school budgets, this collaboration with the Robert E. Simon School, located in an economically disadvantaged area, is especially crucial, said Michell Tollinchi-Michel, director of academic success and enrichment programs and assistant dean of studies.
"In light of the economic crisis and the budget cuts that many institutions are experiencing, especially in after-school funds, it is exciting for Barnard to be able to partner with this institution and support students through hands-on learning opportunities. Making after school and STEM fun yet educational is our goal and we look forward to expanding this partnership, which we plan to do over the next few years.”
Mary McElroy '15 (left) looks on as students at the Robert E. Simon School design video games. She said: "I signed up for the CITY program because I saw it as an opportunity to support kids and help them succeed in what I think is a really valuable and meaningful aspect of their lives—their education....I really enjoy watching students succeed and become more confident in themselves."
Sarah Schacht '16 (left) helps an eighth-grader build a robot using LEGOs. She began tutoring because she wanted an after-school project. "As students (particularly girls) go into high school, they're convinced that they are less adept at math and science, stop trying, and then lose interest. I really like teaching the students—I love to watch them figure out a problem they just learned how to do. Their faces make it well worth it."
Xinni Liu '16 checks progress as students from P.S./M.S. 165 work on designing video games.