It’s easy for STEM Professionals of all kinds to get involved with Letters to a Pre-Scientist! During July, under the Become a Pen Pal tab above, you’ll find the form to register to become a pen pal. If you’re joining us between August and June, add yourself to our mailing list to receive program updates, including when recruitment launches for next year. STEM professionals who are matched with a pen pal send and receive letters throughout a school year from a curious middle school student. Pairs will build a meaningful relationship by discussing STEM career pathways, higher education journeys, and how they’ve each overcome obstacles.
We are very grateful to our STEM professional pen pals for volunteering their time and energy to share their stories and inspiration with our student “pre-scientists”.
Read on to find out how the program works. If you’re a current pen pal with questions, please visit the resources under the “Matched pen pals resources” dropdown under STEM professionals above.
Can I participate?
We define STEM professional broadly. The main requirement is that you are enthusiastic about communicating with the pre-scientists! We welcome pen pals from all different fields related to science, technology, engineering, and math, and at many stages of their careers. This includes undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, professors, industry professionals, government employees, teachers, engineers, and more. People from all over the world are encouraged to participate.
What’s the timeline and commitment?
- In the spring, we recruit teachers who work in low-income communities and want to bring the pen pal program to their classroom.
- During the summer, we invite STEM professionals to register to become a pen pal for that year. Volunteers then complete an online training to familiarize themselves with letter writing resources and best practices.
- STEM pen pals commit to sending their letters by certain dates throughout the year, because teachers wait until they have a letter for every student before they open their letters together on letter opening day. If you are matched with a pen pal but do not meet the deadlines, another STEM professional from the waiting list will be assigned to your pen pal.
- We estimate this opportunity requires 10 volunteer hours total, spread out in chunks of 2 hours every other month between August and June.
- Learn more about the program on the About us page of our website.
Why wasn’t I chosen as a pen pal?
We survey our pre-scientists to find out what kind of science interests them and what their hobbies are. Then we match each pre-scientist with a different STEM professional based on student indicated interests. We prioritize interest based matching because we aim to broaden the scope of what students think about when they think about science. Therefore, which STEM professionals get matched is driven by which science topics students express interest in. There’s nothing you can do to increase your chance of being matched, and there’s nothing you did wrong if you didn’t get matched this year!
One of our “limiting reagents” is the number of pre-scientists in the classes of the teachers selected to host the program. We work with every student on a teacher’s roster to maximize our potential to get students excited about STEM, and substantially support our teachers throughout the school year to make sure every student gets a letter every round.
Our other limiting factor is funding. We would love to reach more students so that all of our STEM professionals could have a pen pal to inspire. See below for ideas about how you can help us grow!
How else can I support?
If you have resources to share, please consider making a donation.
Or, get your company or institution involved as a partner. Email Lucy.Madden@prescientist.org.
From time to time, our teachers like to set up classroom visits or online video chats with scientists. Contact us if you are interested in meeting a group of pre-scientists face-to-face or online.