In the past two years I’ve been perfecting my elevator speech answering the question: What is a STEM Docent? I think the more important and interesting question is: What do STEM Docents actually do? Answer: STEM Docents create, ask, encourage, challenge, engage, inspire.
When a STEM Docent goes into a classroom or a library, for example, the first thing they do is spend some time getting to know the youth they’ll be working with for the subsequent weeks. They create a comfortable, positive, collaborative environment that is safe for youth to be able to ask questions, share ideas, and experiment with STEM. STEM Docents ask questions to get youth to think, incorporate ideas, and encourage youth to try new ideas. STEM Docents don’t give answers. They challenge preconceptions and engage kids in putting their preconceptions to the test in a systematic, scientific way. “Oh, you think that a metal axel will allow the cardboard car to roll further than with the wood axel? Why? Prove it…”
The goal of the STEM Docent program is to help increase the number of youth in New Hampshire’s STEM career pipeline. But what we really do is inspire those “Ah-ha” moments to go off in a kid’s head: the moment when they realize that they are capable of science and engineering, and mastering these subjects is attainable. STEM Docents create that space and opportunity for these moments to inspire.