PISEC has long been engaged with public partnership at the primary school level. Our primary-school programming takes the form of a weekly afterschool site visits at each of our partner sites, occasionally as part of the implementation of the school's or school district's standard extracurricular STEM program. Each week, PISEC brings a curriculum of exciting, hands-on physics activities from one of several physics-based curricula, supplies for students to engage in recording and sharing their hypotheses, findings, and other scientific thoughts, and a group of CU University Educators as mentors. UEs, working alongside their student partners, facilitate exploration of these activities, fostering authentic scientific practice and engaging in mentorship while building relationships as more-skilled peers to PISEC students, rather than as teachers or instructors. In this way, PISEC UEs gain experience in mentorship, science communication, and pedagogy while simply having fun with PISEC students.
Curricula for primary-school sites are designed as sets of activities placed on a "game-board" map, with four topical "rooms" and three complexity "levels" of activities. Over the course of the semester, students explore their curriculum, exercising agency in choosing their path through the different topics and tiers of complexity. As part of their engagement in authentic scientific practice, each student receives a journal in which to record their choices of activities, their scientific activity, and their thoughts and findings throughout the completion of their chosen experiments. Students build their journal as they progress through the semester, creating a record not only of their experiences in the program but of their growth as scientific thinkers. PISEC curricula are designed to facilitate student reflection alongside engagement in greater complexity, and several 3rd-level activities include explicit opportunities for students at that skill level to produce pedagogical materials of their own, aimed at students engaging with certain 1st-level activities.
At the end of the semester, students lead UEs in the production of short films incorporating one or more of the activities they completed during the semester. This activity serves both as an opportunity for students to synthesize their thoughts and experiences throughout the semester and as a final agency-building activity as, to complete the semester, students participate in a field trip to the CU campus where they showcase their movies in the JILA Auditorium. The field trip also provides a final blending of the PISEC, CU, and partner site communities as students visit their mentors' labs, explore the campus, and engage in fun science activities with their mentors one last time.
PISEC's primary school partner sites are local elementary and middle schools. Organizations or parties interested in learning more about PISEC's primary school program should contact the program Director or program Coordinator