As someone who was aided by K-12 programs in my path to becoming a scientist, I'm extraordinarily pleased to be able to share a post from Alexandra Brumberg of Letters to a Pre-Scientist. - Chemjobber
For over six years, I have volunteered with Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) because of what a unique outreach experience it offers: rather than working with a large group of students for a single occasion, with LPS I get to be a part of a highly individualized and long-term outreach experience that is offered to each student through its pen-pal program. To this day, I have yet to come across another program that tailors its outreach to each student based on their own interests and, moreover, does not employ the standard model of getting students engaged in STEM via flashy science demos that, for me, have never felt truly representative of the realities of everyday science (even if they do capture some of the more exciting moments).
Letters to a Pre-Scientist is a non-profit pen-pal program facilitated by science teachers that pairs 5th - 10th grade students with STEM professional volunteers from around the world. We work specifically in low-income communities (where >60% of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch). Middle school students in these communities often lack access to high-quality science educations; moreover, oftentimes the only scientist they have come across in “real life” is their science teacher. Of course, media portrayals of scientists are riddled with stereotypes and are far from representative of the diverse careers and individuals found in STEM. The Draw-a-Scientist Test, a measure of stereotypes in science, shows that 79% of US students draw white, male scientists when asked to draw a picture of what they think a scientist looks like; most students draw chemists wearing lab coats.
Without intervention, many students from low-income communities are excluded from the economic opportunities and career prospects STEM careers offer. At LPS, we’re working to break down harmful stereotypes about what scientists look like and do at work because we believe every student — no matter where they were born or live, what they look like, or how much money their family has — deserves to feel like they are valued and belong in STEM.
Each December, we seek donations to support our pen pal program, which we operate free of charge. This year, we have matched nearly 2,000 students with STEM pen pals, which is more students than we have ever matched before! It costs $60 per student to run our program, or just $5/mo. Join our worldwide network of educators, STEM professionals, and activists dedicated to empowering all students to see themselves as future scientists by making a donation today.
More ways to get involved:
- Join our mailing list to find out when sign ups open to become a STEM pen pal for the 2023-24 school year!
- Become a corporate sponsor!
- Peek into a Letter Opening Party!
- Read about teacher Julie Wojnar’s perspective on running LPS in her classroom
For questions or comments, feel free to reach out to Alexandra Brumberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lucy Madden, CEO (email@example.com).