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CARSON—California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) Center for Innovation in STEM Education (CISE) is launching new health and education projects to help homeless and foster children learn, and older adults cope during COVID-19.
CISE announced the new projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in response to Apple’s Taking Action on Racial Equity and Justice Learning Challenge Series.
CISE is part of Apple’s Community Education Initiative, which brings coding, creativity, and workforce opportunities to communities across the country that are traditionally underrepresented in technology fields.
Apple’s most recent challenge invited learners and educators around the world to answer a “call to action” and make a positive impact in their communities, then share their efforts on social media with the hashtag #ChallengeforChange.
The CISE staff accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. They immediately reached out to their partners in the City of Carson and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) – Local District South to develop several short-term projects, as well as long-term programs to create lasting change in the low-income communities the partners serve.
“The pandemic has hit local communities and shelters really hard, so the CISE team and its partners are going to help by providing resources and learning opportunities to keep teachers, students, and families engaged and safe,” said Kamal Hamdan, Annenberg-endowed professor and director of CISE.
The four projects are:
Addressing the pandemic through face shield donations
In March 2020, CISE staff and students began producing thousands of face shields in its fabrication laboratory (fab lab) for medical professionals working with COVID-19 positive patients. The fab labs are typically used to bring the latest STEM teaching techniques directly to middle and high school students.
CISE is expanding its face shield production for this new project. The began 3D printing a new batch of face shields on MLK Day. Those shields, along with face masks provided by the City of Carson, will go to local homeless shelters serving students and families, to students in foster care, and to older adults who reside in Carson.
“The City of Carson has been a trusted partner of CSUDH for many years, and these opportunities have come at a time when we all need to come together and find new and innovative ways to help our communities,” said Michael Whittiker, human services manager for the City of Carson.
Addressing social isolation through K-12 letter-writing campaign to seniors
When Hamdan met with the City of Carson to discuss how CISE could best address residents’ during the pandemic, the need to do something for the older adult population was evident.
“I went with a lot of excitement but left with tears after hearing about the older adult residents. I learned that the many of them are struggling emotionally and psychologically with loneliness, and even despair,” Hamdan shared.
CISE has partnerships with many in-service LAUSD District South teachers who participate in the center’s numerous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives. The team is now working with these educators in Carson to engage their students in writing letters to older residents who have been feeling isolated due to the strict COVID-19 health recommendations. The letter-writing program will continue indefinitely.
Addressing safety through K-12 COVID-19 PSA assignment
In-service teachers will also engage their students in the development of a public service announcement focused on COVID-19 safety and awareness for the communities CSUDH and LAUSD-Local District South serve.
Addressing the achievement gap through distance learning and tutoring
CSUDH students are also volunteering for a new long-term distance learning program that provides tutoring to K-12 students who are homeless or in foster care. CISE is teaching the student educators tutoring techniques and strategies, and is monitoring and supporting their efforts.
CISE will also combine the letters, shields and masks, and other items as care packages that will be distributed to seniors in Carson.
“These projects are so important because they give residents of Carson opportunities to further educate themselves in an environment built for learning,” said Whittiker. “They also bridge the gap between residents and the university by exposing them to the new developments on campus, and they help the community grow in a substantial way and allow us to influence younger generations to understand the importance of giving back.”