Take 5 with Jenn Pang: Keeping kids on track with science & math

Dr. Jenn Pang

We live hectic lives these days; between duties at home and at work, it can be difficult to take a moment to catch up. With Take 5, we’re making it easy for you to learn something new in five minutes about Bellevue College. In this edition of Take 5, we’re talking to Dr. Jennifer Pang about the current issues facing science and math education and what BC is doing to keep Puget Sound kids on track. Dr. Pang is the director of the Bellevue College Science and Math Institute (SAMI) which promotes student success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by offering innovative programs and events to BC faculty, staff and students as well as the community.

1. What is the biggest trend right now in science and math education and outreach?

One of the biggest movements right now is to incorporate art into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities. The art aspect allows students to show their creativity; an alternative to the more conventional “following the rules” experience that many science activities lean towards. Less concerned with the “right” answer, these creative activities that encourage students to make something that is truly theirs builds ownership and confidence in students and their knowledge base.

The Science Division Open House brings science to life for area school children
The Science Division Open House brings science to life for area school children

2. How is BC responding?

Here at the Science and Math Institute (SAMI), we have been developing more activities (such as paper circuits and DNA bracelets) where students can personalize their experience by incorporating their name or making their own design. Our public planetarium shows also have a storytelling aspect to them, which is intrinsically related to art and culture. As we move forward, SAMI is looking to partner with new organizations to offer innovative ways to present science and math to our many communities.

3. How does BC keep a leg up?

Our SAMI office is very small (just me and our coordinator Jennifer Pritchard), which gives us the opportunity to make real connections with families. Our programming is fun and innovative because Jennifer and I are really kids at heart. We think it’d be great to develop some summer programming for families next summer. Open House is our favorite event of the year, and that’s partly because we get to see whole families having wonderful shared learning experiences.

4. What are some of the challenges in intriguing and retaining students in the science and math fields?

The challenges of engaging and retaining students, particularly those from low-resource communities, are similar across the country. Often, students don’t automatically see themselves as being a scientist. This is why so many of our programs are hands-on – to give people the experiences of discovery and thinking through a concept. In addition, we host the vast majority of our programs on campus; by physically bringing students on to campus, and at such a young age, we are saying, “You are welcome here. This place is also your place.”

5. What are some of BC’s long-term outreach and education goals with SAMI?

We are planning on expanding our current fifth- and sixth-grade experiences, our very popular Science Saturday program, to involve seventh- and eighth-graders in a similar Science Scholars experience. We are also reimagining ways to get our faculty even more involved in our offerings. In addition, SAMI will assess the interest in developing a festival focused on STEM careers by partnering with both internal and external organizations. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

– by Evan Epstein

SAMI logoWant to get involved?

SAMI offers year-round programming for all ages to explore science, math and technology including the Central Sound Regional Science & Engineering Fair (CSRSEF), Science Saturdays (three-hour workshops for fifth through seventh grade students), Summer Science Camp, and planetarium shows where the nighttime sky is accurately produced. For more information, please visit: www.bellevuecollege.edu/sami/.


Last Updated October 3, 2016