Striking a balance between community organizing and educational research, OSMO strives to become a model for after school STEM learning that can be part of a larger agenda for social change. Currently the public education system, which we believe is an essential aspect to a democratic society, is not serving students well, particularly Black, Brown and poor students. OSMO strives to be part of the solution to this enduring problem by creating an after school support-system that while focusing academically on mathematics, science, and technology, does not lose sight of the larger issues of social and economic justice. To create an educational experience that speaks to our students’ lived experiences, we operate from an ecological perspective that acknowledges the ways in which politics and culture interact with student development and learning. Ultimately, we believe that students’ experiences outside of the classroom should be respected and viewed as resources that educators can draw upon to enrich learning in STEM disciplines.
Our mission is to bring together various stakeholders in an effort to create a community-based model for after school learning in OUSD. Stakeholders include first and foremost students and their families, teachers, and community members. By addressing the emotional and social health of our students through culturally relevant practices, we aim to create meaningful and supportive relationships that will serve as the foundation for rigorous learning and academic excellence in STEM subjects. Students will have opportunities to engage with STEM subjects through connected, meaningful experiences.
OSMO is also a university research project. The organizer of the project, Sepehr Vakil, is a doctoral student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. His research focuses on issues of social justice in public education, the role of education as a catalyst for social change, and the challenges to public education in urban and low-income communities. Having a background in engineering, his research looks at these issues in the context of mathematics, science and digital media. These are some of the research questions being explored in the OSMO project:
- How can research in learning and cognition inform the design of an outside-the-classroom educational program in an urban context?
- What kind of an out-of-school support structure is necessary to improve educational outcomes for historically underrepresented youth in STEM fields?
- How can a critical pedagogy lens inform teaching and learning within STEM contexts?
- What is the relationship between mathematical thinking, scientific thinking and critical thinking for social justice?
- How can recent advances in digital media and open-source technologies be leveraged in urban classrooms? How can science and math education take advantage of these technologies?
- What does math, science and digital literacy mean? How do we achieve it?