Marcelo Caplan- Chosen as One of the Most Influential STEM figures of 2015

10984476_461846130629526_3302356706515863163_nBig news for the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) program! Marcelo Caplan, Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor of the Science and Mathematics Department and co-founder of Scientists for Tomorrow, was chosen as one of the most influential Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) figures of 2015 by the National After School Association (NAA) and  featured in After School Today magazine.

Caplan was recognized, along with 16 other STEM professionals, for enriching the educational experience of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and for promoting STEM in communities through the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) program, Family Science Day, STEAM Conference and Scientists for a Day program at Columbia College Chicago. “The ideal of our organization is that STEM is a human right that everybody needs to be able to understand and use it to improve their quality of life,” Caplan, 51, said.

It’s an honor and an accomplishment for Scientists for Tomorrow to have Caplan be a STEM figure among professionals such as, astronaut and S.T.E.A.M promoter, Leland D. Melvin, and Anita Krishnamurthi, Vice President of STEM Policy for Afterschool Alliance.

For Caplan, this recognition goes beyond a personal achievement. “I believe that our program is achieving a goal that is to promote STEM in the communities, and many other people are looking at our program as a possible model to be replicated in different communities around the country,” Caplan said. Caplan will continue to work hard to promote STEM programs and enrich student’s educational experience.

After School Today Magazine.pdf

SfT instructor- First Term Experience

I was first introduced to the Scientists for Tomorrow initiative in a rather vicarious manner through the vibrant teachings of Marcelo Caplan. Before he became my mentor, co-worker, and overall wealth of knowledge for all things related to education, he was my professor. One afternoon, he invited my fellow classmates and myself to attend the STEAM conference he was hosting at NEIU. That gave me the opportunity to see how many people were in fact benefiting from the work done by the Scientists for Tomorrow team, of which each member carried the same form of excitement and enthusiasm for the proverbial “wow” moment I myself now try to introduce the children I teach to.

My very first class was also my most stressful one, only because I had never evaluated my public speaking skills in front of children. That said, once I stepped into the classroom and introduced myself to the class, the atmosphere became very fluid and comfortable. I treated every class as a learning experience for both myself and  the children in my classroom.

The Professional Developments really helped me keep a solid pace with the curriculum I was teaching. Not only that, but they provided an environment that invited all of the instructors to get a better understanding of the tools and materials that they would be using, including a chance to ask questions and get advice from Marcelo and Evelyn, who were always more than willing to help explain certain concepts or send over lesson plans and extra materials when needed.

As an instructor, I was given the opportunity to take part in many of the events that Scientists for Tomorrow put on over the course of the semester, such as the Fiesta Familiar (held at the Lincoln Park Zoo) and Family Science Day (held at the Museum of Science and Industry). Not only did those events give me a chance to interact more broadly with the families of the children I taught, but managing large groups of one-hundred or more people over the course of an afternoon definitely helped strengthen my time management skills and allowed me a chance to see children interact with family and friends, as well as impart them with the same knowledge and interesting facts that we covered over the course of our ten weeks together.

Being part of the Scientists for Tomorrow initiative has given me the chance to meet some of the most diligent educators, including some of the most ambitious children I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with. Their tenacity and perpetual movement towards success and accomplishment has made my time with Scientists for Tomorrow more than worthwhile, and I look forward to meeting and working with the next group of talented young minds and hopefully giving them a chance to chase and realize their own “wow” moment.

By: Filip Zadro -SfT instructor at Shields Elementary School and Senior at Columbia College Chicago majoring in Audio and Design Production.

A Reflection with Scientists for Tomorrow by Ashley Conroy

I am continuously learning what makes a good urban teacher, especially through my interactions with students, family and community. A great lesson I learned was not from a graduate education course, but from an insightful grandmother. She explained that her grandson was now at the age to enter a vicious cycle and she could see him starting to make the same poor decisions she had seen so many times. “What they need,” she said, “is someone to teach them that life goes beyond the block.” I’ve thought about that for two years now, about how sensitive but bold an individual must be to break those barriers and prove what can be a different future. Teachers in this system require balance; they must weigh all of the emotion that is required to work with a human medium. I truly believe in education as an opportunity to shape socially conscious individuals who are willing to help bring change to a world in need, and I want to make sure that every child in this city has that opportunity.

Throughout college, I was always trying to figure out my destiny.  I found myself experimenting with many different areas of study and activities.  I became the teaching assistant for one of my favorite psychology professors in his Behavioral Laboratory.  I was a peer leader, helping to teach a class of freshman through their orientation, and first semester in an interdisciplinary course called “The End of the World.” I began a Career Peer Advising position with the Career Services office in which I helped students build resumes and cover letters.  I became the President of Recruitment in my sorority, where I taught the younger sisters the process of gaining new members. I was a student coordinator for both the Emerging Leader’s Retreat and the Collegiate Leadership Conference, each focusing on helping students develop a sense of social justice within leadership positions. I gained a summer internship with a behavior modification program in which I worked with six to eight-year old children with high functioning autism and ADHD to develop better classroom and social habits.  Even with all of this experience under my belt, I still could not figure out what I should do with my future.  After graduation and in the midst of my job search, I finally put the pieces together.  There was a common theme throughout my life: I was a teacher.

I was given the opportunity to receive my teacher training at Columbia College Chicago (CCC). Their program challenged me academically, but more importantly it challenged me to see the world differently. It allowed me to see society through different experiences and how those differences affect children and their education.  Within the first few weeks of attending CCC, I met a man who would turn out to be another great influence in my life, my mentor, Marcelo Caplan.   Though I did not know it at first, our education philosophies aligned, and he, more than anyone I had met until that point, believed I would be a great teacher.

Marcelo invited me to a Professional Development for a program called Scientists for Tomorrow.  He promised that my attendance was not a commitment, that I should simply come to see what the program had to offer me in terms of my educational experience.  During that first session, I learned how to build a solar powered car, and was forever hooked.  For the past two years, I have worked closely with the Scientists for Tomorrow program, first as an instructor, then as the Associate Coordinator. Scientists for Tomorrow, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Mathematics at CCC, and selected Chicago community organizations, work with the youth and families from some of Chicago’s most distressed neighborhoods. The program enables families to realize the benefits of a well-rounded education that includes strong instruction in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related fields. We have developed and taught 10 week modules such as “Alternative Energy” in which we build solar powered cars,  and “The Physics of Sound and Mathematics of Music” where students build a monochord, wind chime and xylophone of their own.  Through this program, I have worked with students at the Association House in Humboldt Park, the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School with girls from various south side neighborhoods, and both Castellanos and Eli Whitney Elementary Schools in Little Village.

Being a part of this program has been integral to my experience at Columbia College Chicago.  It has provided an avenue for me to practice the pedagogy I so fully explore in my classes.  There are small and vital things that cannot be accomplished in coursework, such as introducing yourself to students on the first day, that SfT has allowed me to experience multiple times.  Because it is an informal after school program and primarily for middle school students, I have been able to develop relationships with students in a way that is different from the general education classrooms.  In this way, the students understand that I’m also a student learning to teach.  They are supportive of my attempts to try different techniques, and are very honest with their opinions.

Above all else, Marcelo and the program have taught me that teaching is learning, and learning requires teaching.  It is with this understanding that I enter the world of urban education, knowing that I will learn just as much as I will teach.  Without the support of such a quality mentor, I would not be so wholeheartedly diving into a sixth grade science and math teaching position within the Chicago Public Schools.  Thanks to Scientists for Tomorrow, I am excited to take on this challenge knowing that I will always be able to ask for help from my mentor.

Throughout my life, I have come across many amazing people who have molded and motivated the way I think and see the world.  One of the most influential, which I learned later in life, is my little sister, Alyssa.  Spending countless hours with her at the homework table in our mother’s house, I came to understand that not everyone learns the same way and that not all teachers are good teachers.  I was always a really good student; if I did not understand something, I simply taught myself.  My sister, however, did not have that ability nor did she have the resources to help develop her abilities. Developing this understanding, in combination with the experiences I had with students in many facets of my undergraduate career, I started to see the inequities in education and vowed from that moment to help be a part of the solution.

~Ashley Conroy~