Brigham & Women’s – Project TEACH (Teen Education About Careers in Health) is a six week summer time paid employment and educational education opportunity for students entering tenth grade at partnering Boston high schools. The students work in a variety of hospital areas, learning about the responsibilities of the workplace, exploring health careers, and meeting a variety of Brigham & Women’s Hospital employees and staff. The program incorporates seminars, field trips, and research into the students’ work weeks.
Make projects relevant to students’ lives outside of the program; let students relate to how what they’re working on can affect them in real life.
Know your students and their families and their communities, and who they are outside the program; if a student’s reality when they leave the program is very different from their reality at the program, it is your job to be aware of that and to take that into account.
Giving students time to reflect by asking open-ended questions and letting them talk to one another about them is extremely important for their development of Critical Thinking.
Intentionally balance groups so that students are working with other students who compliment one another’s strengths and character traits.
Promote self-advocacy in your students; make sure that if they struggle or come across challenges, they have the resources to look for help and learn from that experience.
What strategies do you use to engage students as much as possible in the work that they’re doing?
We’re trying to take these science concepts and make them very real for the students, which is why we focus on public health. They’re working through a public health project that affects them, their families and their communities. We’re not picking things that might be a huge issue for someone in a different part of the country. It’s very local-based public health issues for their neighborhoods and communities.
What we were finding in the past, was that students were graduating and not understanding how we work as public health workers, and how we’re connected to it with youth programs. So we wanted to think about growing up in Boston, what adversities or what barriers or things are they facing, things that they’re actually seeing in their day to day lives when they leave the program, and shape that into what their project. They have to go into their neighborhoods and their communities and these are the things that they’re seeing and it’s real, and it’s easier to find the facts and do the research when you know that this is your real life.
What are the ways you’ve been able to build specific activities or the program in general to challenge students across various different abilities or levels of innate knowledge or skills?
So the first week is for the staff to try to gauge where the students’ levels are, and then we create the groups to balance them. So if we have someone who needs a little more support, we’ll place them with someone who has already completed research papers, so that they have that resource in their peer. Within their group, students can rely on their peers to help support them, in addition to the staff that will support them.
We really also try to balance and take into account personalities. We’re not going to have a group of four or five people who are all the outspoken ones, who are not shy and who are all raising their hands in the same group. We start the summer off with a ropes course, and staff spend a ton of time observing how the students are behaving in groups. A lot of them don’t know each other, so a lot of time is put into understanding how they are socially to make sure, again, it’s not all the most outspoken ones in one group and the observers and really quieter ones are all in a different group. We really try to mix that up quite a bit.
What are some of the struggles that students face, and what do you do to help them problem solve and face those challenges?
Students struggle with being able to use people as resources, and knowing the network and resources available to them. Those are what will lead them to be more successful. A lot of times they can be very prideful and think they can figure this out, but little did they know, someone else had a resource that could have made this so much easier. I think being able to advocate is really key, for everyone, not just students. Starting them out early letting them know it’s okay to ask questions, and mess up. But also asking them, “Did you ask the questions first, or did you mess up first? Let’s make sure next time we ask the questions first before we mess up. And no you’re not bothering someone by asking them a question, because they’d rather you asked them the question before you mess up.” And if they mess up, we always tell them that it’s okay to mess up, but ask them, “Did you learn from that? Was it a lesson? What did you take from that?”
And we’re fortunate, being a scientific institution, we can always say, all of these people in here, to become scientists, have had to make mistakes. We’re very fortunate that we can point out that some scientist or doctor made a mistake. But then they learned something, and here’s what happened because of that. It’s really important to make that, once again, real. That way they feel comfortable enough to say to us, “Hey, I didn’t understand that piece, would you mind explaining that more?” It just works really well.