Amber Osuba

Well-planned, well-spoken STEM guest speakers are every classroom’s greatest gift when it comes to visitors. While there are researched benefits to inviting strong speakers to share with your students, my motive for bringing in guests was to challenge stereotypes, to further offer context for the real-world, and to nudge along the imaginings of my students’ own futures. Like any good lesson, to ensure my goals were met and my students engaged, I needed a plan.

  1. A Unique Dose of Reality

Guest speakers can dig into their particular perspective about what the world of STEM is actually like, what their career paths looked like, and offer insightful counsel for “I wish I knew this about STEM” woes. Traditional STEM careers are a great place to start, but what alternatives exist for helping students think outside the white lab coat? Luckily for your students, STEM is an ever-evolving field and your options for unusual or interesting careers are more expansive than ever before.

If your students are already learning about careers with Endeavor – STEM Career Exploration or Future Goals – Hockey Scholar, consider your access to Sports Statisticians, Researchers, or Engineers at local product manufacturers. You’ll find a brief list of careers aligned to EVERFI STEM programs at the end of the article.

  1. The Right Timing

I learned that carefully selected, well-timed speakers can provide depth for a unit or lesson. Rather than finding yourself at the mercy of a school career day or holiday to locate a guest, consider scheduling one speaker per unit, theme, or quarter. This will allow you to both make a meaningful choice for your students’ learning and give your speaker stronger context for their own presentation.

If you’re struggling to find a local match who fits your window of opportunity, consider video conferencing. The Skype a Scientist program matches scientists with classrooms around the world for 30-60 minute Q & A sessions (for free!).

  1. Setting the Stage

Prepping the key players (your speaker and students) is the most critical component to a successful visit.

For Your Speaker: In initial communications with your speaker, be clear about your expectations, what in particular would be important for your students to learn, and information about your students and unit. Broad prep could lead to broad speaking points, which often leads to a lack of engagement. Let your speaker know any options for technology like a slide deck or their access to certain internet sites (video in particular.)

With Your Students: Schedule time to “introduce” your guest about a week before they join your class. Begin by sharing highlights of the speaker’s profile with your students. Spend time as a group brainstorming potential questions to ask during their visit. What do they want to take away from the experience?

  1. Getting the Most Out of the Experience:

Be sure to debrief after your speaker and ask your students to reflect on what they learned or new sparks of interest. Other than your typical thank you note, how can you best extend the relationship with a guest speaker and keep them coming back each year? With younger classrooms, consider writing a class letter with any lingering questions quarterly. This will help your speaker stick with your students long after they’ve been present in your room. For our high school students, access to STEM mentors is a persistent need. Are there particular students who would be interested in staying connected? If your speaker doesn’t mind, encourage students to send emails with any career or higher education questions in the future.

Speaker Careers Aligned to EVERFI STEM Programs:

  • Industrial Engineer: Design products for commercial production such as toys, consumer appliances, furniture, or cars.
  • Radiographer: Analyze and explain medical images such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs and uses them to figure out health problems in patients.
  • Front End Developer: Design, create, and modify websites. Responsible for the look and layout of websites.
  • Clinical Research Coordinator: Plan, direct, or coordinate clinical research projects. Evaluate and analyze resulting test or project data.
  • Petroleum Engineer: Petroleum engineers are the innovative people who find the best solution for extracting out oil and gas from below the Earth’s surface. Sometimes this involves designing entirely new tools.
  • Sports Statistician: Gather and synthesize information on sports performances, often in real time to provide insight into the performance of athletes and teams.
  • Data Journalist: Write or edit data-focused articles for newspapers, blogs, or other media sources.  

Do you invite guest speakers to your STEM classroom? Which types of speakers did you find had the most impact on your students and why? What careers most stand out for increased student engagement?

Amber Osuba is the Senior Marketing Manager for K-12. Prior to this role, Amber served as a Senior Implementation Manager supporting educators and districts across Pennsylvania and Maryland for three years. She is a former first grade STEM teacher and curriculum lead. You’ll find her at EVERFI’s national conference booths asking teachers to grab swag, take a selfie and tag @EVERFI.

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