Part 2: Engaging Pre-Scientists Through Letters

Part 2: How to make your letters more engaging

You might be realizing at this point in the year that you’re having a difficult time engaging with your pre-scientist. From our experience, this is primarily for one of two reasons:

  1. Your student is not interested or thinks they’re not interested in STEM.
  2. Your letters are not as engaging as they could be.

This is part two of a two part blog series to support STEM pen pals who are having a difficult time engaging with their pre-scientist. In part one, we covered ideas to engage your pen pal if it seems like they’re not interested in STEM.  In this blog, we’ll cove reason #2: “Your letters are not as engaging as they could be.” In this blog post we’re providing tips to make letters more intriguing and ways you can try to engage your pre-scientist.

Making letters more engaging: 

In addition to empowering pre-scientists to feel confident that they will be successful and belong in STEM, another goal of our program is to get students excited about STEM. Engaging letters from STEM pen pals further support pre-scientists’ interest in learning more about their STEM pen pal and their career. 

The Letters to a Pre-Scientist program should be a fun experience for pre-scientists and STEM pen pals alike. Pre-scientists are often inspired by letters from STEM pen pals to learn more about their STEM pen pal as people and to explore STEM career pathways, and sometimes they aren’t. If it seems like your pre-scientist isn’t excited about writing and receiving letters, it might help to try making letters more engaging. Sometimes there are indicators in the reply letters you receive from your pre-scientist that might help you know whether your letter is engaging your pre-scientist. For example if you write a 3-page letter and get a few sentence response reply letter, or if you receive a response letter that doesn’t address nearly anything that you wrote about in your letter your pre-scientist may not be engaged in your letters. 

We’ve gathered resources and advice from teachers and previous STEM pen pals on how to make your letters super interesting to encourage your pre-scientist to engage with you through letters. See below!

  • Always ask your pre-scientist questions. 
    • Try asking high level questions that encourage your pre-scientist to share more about something they’ve told you in a letter to encourage more in depth thoughts and create dialogue. Watch this video by LPS teacher Ms. Hoyle on how to ask good questions that elicit dialogue.
    • Creative idea from a real STEM pen pal from 2020-21: “In every letter that will get a response, I ask what they are studying in Science class right now, as a way to engage around Science and get them to reflect on what they have been learning.”
  • Add visuals to your letters.
    • Watch this video from STEM pen pal and illustrator Jeff Pea about adding visuals to your letters.
    • Creative idea from a real STEM pen pal from 2020-21: “I tried to provide drawings associated with the main themes of my text to make my pen pal interested and help them follow along.”
    • Creative idea from a real STEM pen pal from 2020-21: “I included a “map” of the various places I’ve moved to/lived from college to where I am now in my career to help my pen pal understand my science journey.”
  • Check out these letters from real STEM professionals in the program, annotated by LPS teachers for inspiration on how to make your letters engaging:
  • Other creative ideas from real STEM pen pals about how to engage with pre-scientists through letters:
    • “Included a ‘cheesy science joke’ on every envelope.”
    • “I asked for a video game recommendation, and I played some of the game and reported back on my experience.”
  • Check out these creative images, diagrams and timelines to help inspire including visuals to supplement content:

 

Diagram included in STEM pen pal Pedro Salas’ letter in 2021 to show locations of and photos of telescopes he’s used in his research. 

 

Illustration included in STEM pen pal Dr. Kaitlin Gallagher’s letter in 2021 to show how she spent her time at different stages of her higher education journey. 

 

Timeline included in STEM pen pal Danielle Maxwell’s letter in 2021 to display a visual of her higher education journey. 

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