NSA/CSS Colorado (NSAC) began a new program to support the local education community this year, by initiating a local chapter of the agency's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Partnership Program (MEPP). The chapter established partnership agreements with an area elementary school, a middle school, and a charter school in the third largest school district in Colorado. As part of the agreements, NSAC created a speakers bureau to provide talks to students on STEM subjects designed to challenge learners, emphasize critical thinking skills, and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
Focused on building a positive relationship between the agency and local community, NSAC collaborated with agency headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland, to bring a K-12 Education Outreach Advocate to Colorado to kick-off the highly-sought program. Overseen by the advocate, NSAC's 18 military and civilian volunteers delivered eight Speakers Bureau talks to grades 1-5 and 8 at two of the partner schools.
NSAC presented 20 additional one-hour Speakers Bureau talks during May 2015, finishing the local school year. The volunteers conducted from one to five talks on any given day, meeting 100 percent of the schools' requests for talks.
One of the talks was "Cryptology 101," where students were taught to make and break codes. "The students really got into it," the NSAC program lead said. "Later, the students created codes and forwarded them to the NSAC team to break."
A different talk involved a universal appeal to students by using candy for math problems. The children were given fun-size bags of Skittles™ to use as their "data." After researching their data by handling their bags, students guessed how many candies were in the bag and how many of each color were in the bag. This gave the students an opportunity to create hypotheses, understand statistics, and test their guesses as well as enjoy a treat when the exercise was over.
NSAC hopes to expand the program in September 2015, which will be the start of its first full school year, by adding science fair judging and the Partners in Education (PIE) program, which provides tutoring in any area of learning.
While programs like these allow NSAC to build partnerships with the community, they also provide employees opportunities for self-development, including improving their presentation skills. MEPP is available to elementary, middle, and high schools and has curriculum geared towards grades K-12. Other schools in the Colorado region that would like to bring MEPP to their classrooms can contact NSAC's Associate Directorate for Education and Training at 303-677-6906 for further information.