The Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering

Kenneth Hill

The Chicago Pre-College Science and Engineering Program (ChiS&E) envisions producing a generation of young minority Chicago adults prepared to take their place in this new global economy and compete successfully with children in any place in the America and the world. We realize that a dream without a plan is just a wish. By employing our theory of change that focuses on developing the early interest of African-American and Latino children in STEM and deeply engaging their parents in the process, we believe that we can realize this vision. Out of this vision, SETSEP was conceived to provide highly engaging, age-appropriate, hands-on science and engineering activities for Chicago Public Schools students in grades K–3 and their parents. SETSEP is based on a tested model and best practices of the long-standing DAPCEP program in Detroit—a program noted for its excellence in preparing youth to be the future scientists and engineers of tomorrow.

The overarching goal of SETSEP is to increase the participation of underrepresented groups (African-American and Latino) in the STEM fields through the following three objectives:

1) increasing the knowledge, skills, and interest of K–3 students from underrepresented populations groups in STEM fields;
2) increasing parents’ knowledge and skills in science and engineering and their capacity to support their children in pursuing education and careers in these fields; and
3) increasing the effectiveness of teachers in engaging students and parents in the Saturday science-related learning activities.

In our second program year, we are already producing strong outcomes—benefiting more than 298 low-income minority students and their parents—which suggest that we are well on our way to realizing ChiS&E’s vision. In addition, ChiS&E has developed curriculum guides, aligned with the exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry, for Kindergarten (Little Civil Engineer), First Grade (Little Chemical Engineer), Second Grade (Little Electrical Engineer) and Third Grade (Little Mechanical Engineer). Also, ChiS&E developed a ChiS&E Parent Resource Guide with information for parents about social service agencies in Chicago. ChiS&E will be using the expertise of a local marketing and sales firm to develop strategies to scale up its program. ChiS&E has two websites: (English) and (Bilingual)

Research Findings

  • Dr. Beatriz Chu Clewell , Breaking the Barriers (Helping Female and Minority Students Succeed in Mathematics), Jossey-Bass, 1992
  • Return on Investment, Tracking Report by the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) 1976-1996

Evaluator: Dr. Maurice Samuels, Center for Elementary Math and Science Education, University of Chicago

Evaluation Methodology: A mixed-methods approach including document reviews, interviews, assessments, observations, focus groups, student portfolio and digital artifact analysis, and attendance records to measure project impacts, content knowledge, motivation, STEM interest, and overall project success.

Highlights of Project Evaluation

  • CHIS&E IS IMPLEMENTING ITS THEORY OF CHANGE—Saturday sessions are meeting program needs, quality of instruction is improving, the cyberlearning component is developing, program attendance has remained consistent, a Chicago-based coordinator will enable the program to expand.
  • THE PROGRAM IS BUILDING PARENTS’ CAPACITY TO SUPPORT THEIR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION—parents are satisfied with the program, parent engagement is high, parents’ understanding of the fields of technology and engineering has been strengthened, parents would like their children to continue in ChiS&E after third grade, ChiS&E is expanding Spanish language materials for parents.
  • CHIS&E IS PREPARING STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE STEM FIELDS—students are using information learned at ChiS&E at their school, students have expanded notions of what technology and engineering are, students have a strengthened awareness of engineering careers, additional materials will increase that awareness.
  • DAPCEP STAFF IS PREPARING CHIS&E TEACHERS TO EFFECTIVELY ENGAGE STUDENTS AND PARENTS—teachers have an increased knowledge of the STEM fields, additional PD will further build their capacity.