January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Interview with Tokiwa Smith of SEM Link

Posted: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

by Eric Lewis

The Next Generation Science Standards are coming soon.  They emphasize engineering solutions and communicating ideas, and this makes Science Fairs and scientific investigations all the more important to the education of our students.  So, I recently caught up with Tokiwa Smith, Founder and Executive Director of SEM Link – a non-profit organization that connects K-12 students with the STEM community to engage them in hands-on STEM activities and expose them to STEM careers. 

Eric:  Tokiwa, what is SEM Link?

TokiwaScience, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc., (SEM Link) is a nonprofit that I founded in 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia on the premise that exposure to members of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) communities is critical to student achievement and career exploration in math and science.  Our two core programs, Experimental Design Program and Math and Science Career Academy, enhance the STEM educational experience for K-12 students by providing them with opportunities to engage in hands-on STEM activities, explore STEM careers and learn about real-world applications of STEM. Since our inception we have served thousands of youth in Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Washington DC Metro Area.  Our San Francisco Bay Area programming began in 2010.

Eric:  What programs does SEM Link offer?

TokiwaThe organization has a two-core program model, Experimental Design Program and Math and Science Career Academy. The Experimental Design Program teaches students how to design and conduct experiments for math and science fairs utilizing research, laboratory and scientific literacy skills gained through individual and group learning opportunities as well as mentoring. This program provides science fair judges and mentors for community organizations and schools upon request. The Math and Science Career Academy exposes students to math and science through hands-on activities, real-world applications and career exploration.  The signature event for this program is our STEM career fair, which we currently host in Atlanta and Oakland, which is an event set up like a job fair where youth get an opportunity to meet and interact with STEM professionals, who have prepared hands-on activities to expose youth to their career. This program is also where we go into schools and community organizations to have classroom visits, participate in community events such as science festivals, host field trips, donate laboratory equipment to schools and whatever other creative programs/events that will expose youth to STEM.

Eric:  What was your pathway to your current position and why did you create this organization?

TokiwaWhen I graduated from college in 2001, I didn’t want to pursue a career as a chemical engineer but wanted to make a difference in the world.  A few months after graduating from college I began working in a STEM education program at a university in Atlanta that ensured that community college STEM majors continued their education at a 4-year academic institution and beyond. The idea for SEM Link came in the 2002-03 academic year while I was coordinating an after-school and tutorial program at a middle school in Atlanta. I had several conversations with the kids about what they wanted to be when they grew up and not one of them wanted to be a STEM professional. I wanted to give the students an opportunity to meet and interact with STEM professionals, so they could consider STEM careers as an option for them when they grow up.  The vision statement of the organization is “unveiling potential through exposure” and that is the main goal of the organization to expose as many children as we can to as many STEM disciplines as we can by connecting them to the STEM community through our various programs and events.

Eric:  What opportunities are available for students interested in STEM?

Tokiwa: Right now is a great time for any student that has an interest in STEM to explore and/or pursue a STEM career. It has become a hot topic in education, so there are many resources being poured into the STEM education from pre-K to graduate school. These resources not only include opportunities for academic skill development needed to pursue a STEM career as well as opportunities for hands-on and out of school time learning opportunities. In addition, STEM is one of the few sectors in the economy that is still experiencing job creation and growth, which means that if you want to pursue a career in one of those fields you have a better chance of building a career in this field if you develop the professional expertise and skills necessary to fill one of these positions.

Eric:  How can teachers/students/families get involved?

TokiwaOur programs target K-12 students, with most of the programs taking place during out of school time and in the community but a few during the school day. Our events, listed on our program calendar; our next major event will be our 3rd Annual San Francisco Bay Area STEM career fair on March 2 at Laney College in Oakland.  We encourage K-12 parents to bring their children to our events and teachers to encourage their students and their families to participate in their events.  For teachers, there are programs that we have available at your school site; our Schools and Community Organization page on our website has more information.

Eric:  How can scientists and engineers get involved?

TokiwaWe can’t achieve our work without the support of the STEM community; therefore we need scientists and engineers to volunteer with the organization. We have a diversity of opportunities that are virtual, one-time or ongoing that you can find by a detailed description by visiting our volunteer match page.

Eric:   What are some success stories that you would like to highlight?

TokiwaAs an organization, we have had many successes over the years, our STEM career fairs have exposed hundreds of youth to over 35 STEM disciplines. Our Experimental Design Programs has supported over 100 students and 20 school districts and community organizations with their STEM fairs. Our participation in community events such as the Bay Area Yuri’s Night Celebration, the US Science and Engineering Festival and the Bay Area Science Festival has allowed us to engage thousands of youth in hands-on STEM activities in the community. However, my favorite story to share is how the impact our programs, in particular our classroom visits, had on a child.  Dr. LaToya Myles advisory board co-chair and an environmental scientist visited a 3rd grade classroom in Oakland in 2011. We visited this class because the teacher requested us to do so after a little girl in her class told her classmates that she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up and the boys in her class told her that girls couldn’t be scientist. Dr. Myles spent about 45 minutes in the classroom talking about her journey to become an environmental scientist and her research in Air Quality. As a result of Dr. Myles visiting her classroom not only does this little girl know that is possible for women to be scientists, but so do the other children in her class.

Eric:  Thanks so much, Tokiwa. Where can we find you online?

TokiwaOur website is www.semsuccess.org.   We are on Facebook, so you can like our page www.facebook.com/semlinkinc and/or you can follow us on twitter (our handle is @semlink).

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

One Response

  1. […] the Bay Area Science Fair website and the Science and Humanities Symposium website.  And, please read my interview with Tokiwa Smith – the director of SEM Link – in this month’s eCCS.  Tokiwa’s organization might be really […]

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LATEST POST

California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

OVERVIEW
Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.