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We've Been Busy with Virtual Internships!

Blog Post Title: We’ve Been Busy with Virtual Internships!

Currently we are running three programs with the Hazleton One Community Center. All three programs are done remotely via Zoom, each on a different day of the week. All pre-service teachers are online. The students at the community center are in person on computers socially distanced and masked. The Project Coordinator, May Lee, is on site three days a week to provide on-the-ground support for the virtual internships. Two of the programs are funded through Science 20/20. Below are some details about each of these programs.


Virtual Tutoring

Virtual tutoring is run through one section of a Penn State College of Education undergraduate course (CI 280) that provides preservice teachers an early embedded field experience through an introduction to teaching English Learners. CI 280 students (referred to as pre-service teachers) tutor and provide homework help to students at the Hazleton One Community Center through Zoom. CI 280 is also working with our partners at Juniata Park Academy. Tutoring begins in week five of a fifteen-week semester and lasts for approximately eight weeks, one hour each week. Overall, they are in contact via Zoom for about eight hours during the semester.


STEM Internship and Micro:bit Internship

This year, we (Science 20/20) started virtual internships in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing opportunities for PSTs and elementary/middle school students to engage in STEM enrichment programming online. Both internships take place at the Hazleton One Community Center. PSTs work with Science 20/20 team members to plan for these virtual learning sessions (approximately an hour a week, plus two hours of independent planning, preparation, and post-teaching reflection). The planning is coupled with a live online Zoom that takes place once a week. PSTs teach Hazleton students for an hour and fifteen minutes a week, for eight weeks (approximately 8-10 hours working with students). Each internship has 13 PSTs and 12-16 students. The two internships follow a similar format, with slightly different content. Read about each one below.


In the STEM internship, pre-service teachers and students engage in a language-integrated STEM enrichment program oriented toward learning about and designing 3-D projects with electronic circuits and motors. There are two four-part investigations.

  1. For the first, students learn how to build simple electronic circuits on paper using conductive tape, LEDs, and low-voltage coin cell batteries, then use these circuits to create greeting cards, interactive artwork, and 3D projects such as light-up wristbands.

  2. For the second, students learn about motors and how they can be used to add motion to projects. The investigation begins with an introduction to the parts of a motor and the concept of polarity. Students experiment with adding things to the motor’s shaft that change the way the motor functions. Students create two take-home projects: a standard motor-based Propeller Pup and a vibration motor-based ScribbleBot.

The Microbits internship introduces students to the engineering design process through three investigations centered around exploring a micro:bit, which is an exposed circuit board that pairs with an easy-to-use website to introduce block coding to beginners (https://microbit.org/).

  1. Investigation 1 is an introduction to the BBC micro:bit and a few basic code blocks (pushbuttons and LEDs) while engaging students in the engineering design process that results in incorporating a physical piece of hardware (micro:bit) into a tangible product (a “micro:pet”).

  2. In investigation 2, students learn to “write code” using basic code blocks to control two different output devices (the micro:bit LED matrix and speaker) based on two input devices (the accelerometer and pushbuttons), such that students design and create a stuffed animal that plays a tune when tossed in the air and a piece of wearable tech (e.g., a watch, a name tag, necklace).

  3. In investigation 3, students continue learning about basic code blocks and input and output on the micro:bit and are introduced to circuits and conductors with the pins on the micro:bit by building an “orchestra” of interactive musical instruments made of unconventional materials.

Regarding language, because many students taking part in the after-school program are from families who immigrated from the Dominican Republic, and whose home language is Spanish, our emphasis is on recognizing the multiple and creative ways students already make sense of engineering practices. We therefore consider language as constructing different combinations of multilingual STEM talk including home language varieties (including Spanish and English), gestures, and ways of working with materials. To support the language practices of the students whom PSTs work with, the internship focuses on:

  • Recognizing the multiplicity of what language in science interactions can be through watching videos of teaching and reflecting in order to lesson plan

  • Integrating multilingual words, phrases, and morphemes into teaching

  • Asking multilingual content-specific questions as students work (e.g., ¿Cuéntame sobre el problema? How does your design work? When you remove the additional code block, que pasó?; What changes did you make to your design? ¿Porque?) to create the opportunity for students to articulate their noticings, learnings and process of design, try out and construct language to be performed at the end of the session, and model peer questioning for students to engage with one another

  • Recording formative assessment videos at the end of each session as a material and visual-based way of collectively constructing language in STEM such that students can also reflect, bring together ideas, and articulate their understandings as they engage in investigations over time

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