Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) pairs students with a worldwide network of STEM professionals for a yearlong pen pal program during science class. LPS aims to broaden students’ awareness of what STEM professionals look like and do at work and inspire all students to explore a future in STEM.
We work with fifth to tenth grade student “pre-scientists” in US low-income communities. Each student is matched with a different STEM professional; many students get paired with someone who does not fit their stereotypical image of a scientist. The pairs exchange eight letters during a school year and discuss higher education pathways, STEM career journeys, and overcoming obstacles. Take a peek into a Letter Opening Party!
Our Successful Approach
No opt-out approach: LPS intentionally works directly with teachers in low-income schools to facilitate the program during the school day for every student in the classroom. This maximizes our potential to get all students excited about science. LPS prioritizes being accessible to every student by providing educator-created resources to support students behind in reading, students with special needs and English Language Learners. In this way, we reach students who are not traditionally served by extracurricular STEM activities.
Yearlong one-on-one interaction: LPS facilitates individualized interactions rather than full-class activities or guest speakers. Instead of one-time activities during a field trip or video conference, we leverages a similar time commitment from volunteers to facilitate meaningful relationships between STEM professionals and students over time.
Interest-based matching: We match students with STEM professionals using student STEM interests and hobbies to ensure students are connecting with someone with expertise in their areas of interest. This makes LPS an engaging and authentic learning experience by giving students the chance to direct the conversation. This approach also aims to combat implicit biases, by pairing a male student with a female STEM professional, for example.
Strong teacher and STEM professional support: We provide comprehensive training and yearlong implementation support for teachers and STEM professionals. Additionally, LPS teachers have access to curriculum and instructional resources, such as prompts and templates for letter writing, to support the letter writing process.