A lot of people have “ire” about politics and the political landscape these days, about where the country is heading, and about the impact that is having on education… so what is one to do?
Well, one local group of concerned citizens got organized and turned their ire into action. They went beyond the cathartic “feel good” of a march and turned their public demonstration into personal contribution. This group, let’s call them IRE, then proceeded to “engineer” a solution to the identified problem. So, as an elementary engineering educator, I, naturally, looked at this process via the engineering components of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
NGSS 3-5-ETS1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
These concerned citizens (IRE) researched nonprofits that need support and that help many of the people likely to be negatively affected by current events. These nonprofits have either already had some of their funding cut or will face similar hardships in the near future. This is a problem that the group identified. They wanted, and some people needed, for these organizations to be supported.
Success means engaging people into action, while the constraints include available materials to donate, time that people have available, and cost of support. The IRE Volunteer Service Fair is helping to meet these identified wants and needs–all while addressing aspects of the problem.
NGSS 3-5-ETS1-2: Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
IRE’s research resulted in creating a volunteer fair where local nonprofits and people interested in taking action could meet. This volunteer fair created opportunities for concerned citizens to find out where, when, and how they can begin doing the real work of making a difference in their community. IRE is also working on following up with each of these organizations in order to develop other possible solutions. How successful these solutions are in terms of the constraints faced by these noprofits depends on the willingness of people to act.
NGSS 3-5-ETS1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
The idea behind the IRE Volunteer Service Fair became a test with the fair itself. Is this the right way to engage peoples’ passions as they are ignited by what’s going on? People want to resist the negative challenges our society is now facing, so they need a way to engage and help out… but how best to do this? People are involved so it’s next to impossible to control the variables, but I’m sure the organizers and participants could identify several aspects that need improvement (don’t worry, there were plenty of successes too). In engineering, we’d refer to these areas of identified improvement as failure points. This may sound a little harsh, but all it really means is room for improvement. Ultimately, the concept is an amazing one and certainly this prototype is worth modeling elsewhere, improving, and building upon.
Next Steps to #IgniteResistEngage
How did I get roped into this anyway? Funny you should ask, but it was actually through mutual connections to both the organizers of IRE and a local education nonprofit called “techbridge” that is focused on getting girls excited and interested in STEM activities and careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). TechBridge is an award-winning program located in the south Puget sound. I originally connected with them through Washington STEM and Washington MESA’s Engineering Fellowship program. This is why I approached the IRE Volunteer Service Fair with engineering on the brain.
So what are the next steps for everyone? Well, you have to ask yourself how you are interested in helping and what you are willing to do. Nonprofits like techbridge are a great place to start. They need donations of materials, time from volunteers, and money. The list below is by no means definitive, but it does include a lot of participants from the IRE Volunteer Service Fair. Check them out! IGNITE your passion, RESIST the negative changes around us, and ENGAGE with your fellow citizens through volunteer service. That is how you make a difference…
Helpful Links and Resources
techbridge (help get girls into STEM): www.techbridgegirls.org
Washington STEM (help all access STEM): www.washingtonstem.org
Washington MESA (help under-served youth in STEM): www.washingtonmesa.org
Washington’s Paramount Duty (help fully fund schools): www.paramountduty.org
Lifewire (help end domestic violence): www.lifewire.org
Whole Washington (help everyone get healthcare): www.wholewashington.org
CarbonWA (help the environment & fund schools): www.carbonwa.org
Lambert House (help at-risk LBGTQ youth): http://laberthouse.org
Mary’s Place (help homeless families): www.marysplaceseattle.org
Tiny House Program (help end homelessness): https://lihi.org
Crisis Clinic (help connect people w/critical resources): www.crisisclinic.org
Teen Link (help teens get help): www.866teenlink.org
#IgniteResistEngage Event Handout