Clarke MA, Sharma NM, Schiller AM. An outreach program with hands-on, physiology-based exercises generates questions about STEM career expectations. Adv Physiol Educ 43: 175-179, 2019; doi:10.1152/advan.00013.2019.-Scientific advocacy and outreach programs are encouraged to increase public understanding of scientific knowledge and generate interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. However, evaluation of these events' effectiveness is difficult and somewhat rare. This study's purpose was to better understand how effective an established physiology- based outreach program was in generating interest in STEM careers, while simultaneously providing information that can be used to increase the effectiveness of future events. We partnered with a private school located in Omaha, Nebraska, where 64-80 students participated in 3 h of physiology-based activities presented by volunteers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The event included a brief presentation of the eye, sensory, heart, and lung systems, followed by hands-on demonstrations and activities. Each session concluded with 15 min of questions and answers (Q and A), where students were encouraged to engage the volunteers in inquiries about what they just learned, career-related questions, or any topic of their choosing. Each Q and A session was audio recorded and evaluated using thematic analysis to identify patterns in the Q and A data. Two major themes of questions were identified: 1) scientific content (animal circulatory systems and how organs are affected by disease or stimulus); and 2) career-related content, including typical day-to-day activities of a scientist and the volunteers' satisfaction with a scientific career. We conclude that hands-on physiology-based learning opportunities are effective in generating short-term interest in STEM content and careers. The results of this study will also facilitate informed modification of event content to better suit student's interests.
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