Service-Learning & Volunteering

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is the STEM Ambassadors program? 

4-H STEM Ambassadors are trained USM students who facilitate hands on science, technology, engineering, and math projects with youth in 3rd-8th grade. Students are placed at a community partner site and will be given materials to teach six one-hour weekly lessons in a specific field

What's the process of becoming a STEM Ambassador?

Contact USM’s STEM Ambassadors Coordinator, Antoine Jefferson, at usm.stemambassadors@maine.edu. You will receive an email with training dates and next steps. You will need to complete an application, a background check release, and complete online and in-person trainings. During the training, you will be matched with a community partner host site and receive your toolkit. 

What if I don't have a STEM or education background?

No STEM or education background is required! Everything you need to know about teaching and facilitating will be covered in your training. The toolkits will come with the materials you need and a full curriculum for your lessons. You will have a variety of sources of support! 

Will something work with my schedule?

There are a variety of times that organizations are looking to host a STEM Ambassador. During the application process, we will ask you to tell us your availability each day of the week in the morning, afternoon, and evening. You will be matched with a community partner site based on the site’s requested time and your availability. Your lesson will typically be one hour a week at the same time for six weeks. Most of the available times are in the morning and afternoons on weekdays. Weekend and evening sites are limited. 

How does transportation work? Are there options for students without transportation? 

You are responsible for getting yourself to your site. If you have a car or another form of transportation, you will be reimbursed for mileage. If you do not have transportation, there are a variety of options. First, you may be able to carpool with your partner to your site. If neither partner has transportation, many of the community sites are along the Metro bus line or may be within walking distance from USM’s campus. Students are able to purchase a student bus pass in the Bookstore and can be reimbursed for the cost. 

What is my commitment level?

STEM Ambassadors commit to participate in volunteer training, which is approximately three hours online and four hours in-person. You will also need to meet with you host site for an introductory meeting one time before your lessons begin for approximately one hour. Each week, you will need to prepare your lesson ahead of time, review the curriculum, and ensure you have all necessary materials, which should take approximately one hour per week. You will do six one-hour lessons at your community partner host site. You should expect to commit to approximately 20 hours total during your STEM Ambassador experience over the course of two months. 

What are the benefits of service-learning and volunteerism?

Service-learning combines academic instruction with a community service experience. Students in service-learning courses apply the knowledge and analytical skills gained in the classroom to address social, environmental, and cultural issues within the community. Students expand their understanding and benefit the community. If you join this program as part of a class, you can link what you are learning to the work you are doing for the community. If you are doing this on your own as a form of volunteerism, there are just as many benefits for both you and the community. You will gain skills and experience while making a difference for kids! 

What are the benefits of becoming a STEM Ambassador?

In addition to the benefits of service-learning and volunteerism, the STEM Ambassador program will teach you a variety of skills that will help you in academics, career preparation, and professional development, as well as give you a chance to be involved and make a difference in your community. Being a STEM Ambassador gives you a fun opportunity to work with youth while developing skills in leadership, project planning, presentation, problem-solving, and communication -- all skills that are sought after by employers. You are also eligible to receive digital badges, a form of micro-credentialing, that can be used on your resume and LinkedIn profile. 

What types of community organizations might I be placed at?

There are a variety of community partner host sites. Many of our sites are in local elementary and middle school classrooms, as well as libraries and after-school programs. You will be matched with a host site primarily based on your schedule, but also with consideration to age group preference and transportation needs. 

What type of support will I have?

There are a variety of people that will be able to support you. Your point person is our STEM Ambassadors Coordinator, Antoine Jefferson, who coordinates the program at USM. You will also have the support of the Program Coordinator based at the UMaine Cooperative Extension, Sarah Sparks.  You will work closely with both of these people in your training, preparation, and throughout your time as a STEM Ambassador. You will also likely have a fellow STEM Ambassador who will be your partner at your host site. You will work alongside them in the preparation and execution of your projects. During your lessons, your host site will provide an adult who is responsible for student supervision and behavior management. 

What are the training dates for Fall 2018?

Volunteers must attend two trainings: Session A and Session B. There are a variety of time and location options, but you only need to attend one of each session. 

Session A: Intro to STEM Ambassadors and Experiential Learning

  • Monday, September 17th - 3pm - 5pm (Portland - Wishcamper 113)
  • Friday September 21st - 10am - 12pm (Gorham - Bailey 205)
  • Friday September 21st - 1pm - 3pm (Gorham - Bailey 207)

Session B: STEM Ambassadors Practice and Preparation

  • Monday, September 24 - 3pm -5pm (Portland - Wishcamper 113)
  • Friday. September 28th - 10am - 12pm (Gorham - Bailey 205)
  • Friday, September 28th - 1pm - 3pm (Gorham - Bailey 207)

What will I learn during the training?

Your pre-training online will cover how to work with youth, how to facilitate inquiry-based STEM activities, and how to keep youth safe. The in-person trainings are hands-on trainings. Session A covers an introduction to the program and an overview of experiential learning. Session B covers practice and preparation. 

What are toolkits? What types of kits are available?

Toolkits include the materials and the curriculum that you need for your projects. Some community sites may request a particular toolkit, particularly if one aligns with what they have been teaching their students. If they have not requested one, you may have the choice to pick one that interests you. The general STEM areas we cover are physical science, biological science, math, engineering, computer science and technology, and chemistry. Some of the specific kit options that we have are animal science, climate change, geospatial projects, robotics, wind power, and more! 

How does this benefit the students and the community?

In addition to providing you with a great learning experience and opportunity to develop skills, this also benefits the students you are working with and the greater community. This program aims to help young students become more interested in a STEM education and to help build their college aspirations. As a college student, you will serve as a role model to help them see themselves pursuing higher education, as well as share an excitement for STEM and encourage them to think more about this field. 

Why do I have to have a background check?

Because you will be working with children, it is necessary for us to do a background check. For additional information or concerns, please contact Sarah Sparks at sarah.sparks@maine.edu.

Who can I contact for more information?

Antoine Jefferson, STEM Ambassadors Coordinator, at usm.stemambassadors@maine.edu.  

What if this program isn't the best fit for me right now?

If this program does not feel like the best fit for you for any reason, such as issues with transportation or scheduling, there are a variety of other ways that you can be involved in your community! Please contact USM’s Coordinator of Service-Learning and Volunteerism, Samantha Frisk, at samantha.frisk@maine.edu to learn more about other opportunities that may work better with your needs and interests.