Activity Leader Tips

A good session is no accident. It's the result of solid preparation, practice, and delivery. The following tips are provided for you, whether you're a first-time activity leader or a seasoned leader who would like a refresher as you prepare to deliver STEM2D activities. The tips mentioned throughout this section provide practical information to help you present yourself, the exciting STEM2D subject, and the dynamic STEM2D careers.

General Tips

  • Make sure you're comfortable with the activity before implementation. If you're not sure about the content, find someone to assist in its implementation.
  • Know that the activity may take more or less time than recommended, depending on your teaching style and the interests and abilities of the young people.
  • Feel free to customize the activity to align with your expertise and background, as well as those of the students in your community.
  • Recruit additional volunteers. Although most of the activities require one activity leader and additional volunteers are not required, it is ideal to have additional volunteers to support student learning.
  • Work with someone at the implementation site to arrange the logistics. See the Implementation Settings section for more information.
  • Help participants feel safe, both emotionally and physically; provide an environment that supports learning.
  • Wear business/appropriate attire; look like an “expert.”

Preparation Tips

  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Plan thoroughly, but know that you can modify and tailor your presentation.
  • Carefully read the entire text prior to conducting the activity.
  • Review the activity description and student learning objectives (STEM2D Discoveries and Skills), as well as the key words and definitions. Go over the Volunteer Preparation and Things to Consider sections for activity-specific information and instructions.
  • Preview the suggested videos. Make sure they're appropriate for the students who will participate in the activity; update if needed.
  • Complete the “Tell My Story” form, which will prepare you to talk about your educational and career path with students.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice. Complete all calculations, labs, experiments, and/or real-life scenarios prior to presenting the activities to young people.
  • Secure the materials for the activity and make photocopies of the Student Handouts, based on the total number of students attending.

Implementation Tips

  • Arrive before the participants are expected to arrive, but don't interrupt if a class is in session. This will give you time to set up the room, review your plan, prepare visual aids, and test any electrical equipment, as well as relax.
  • Set-up on site:
    • Make sure tables and chairs are arranged as recommend for the specific activity.
    • Set up computer and projector for the PowerPoint presentation.
    • Distribute the Student Handouts and arrange the activity materials, as needed.
  • Give participants a positive learning experience.
  • Be flexible. Expect the unexpected. It is important to follow your plan, but it is also important to allow for necessary changes.
  • Be conscious of time. Begin on time and end on time. Provide 10–15 minute breaks every 1.5 hours.
  • Determine what the young people already know about a concept or topic. What knowledge and experiences do they bring to the conversation? When particular skills are required, such as mathematical calculations, provide an example or demonstration of the process before asking young people to solve a problem.
  • Frequently check for understanding by asking relevant questions.
  • Prepare for problems that may arise by knowing what to say when someone gets off topic, disagrees with what is being said, etc. (See When Things Don’t Go as Planned section for more information.)
  • Enjoy yourself!

Faciliation Tips

  • Use the PowerPoint slides provided with each activity to support your instruction. Be sure to review the main points and key definitions throughout the activity. Keeping key words and information visible helps young people retain new information.
  • Reference Student Handouts; they are aids to your preparation and participant learning.
  • Give clear and logical directions. Ask if clarification is needed and demonstrate if necessary.
  • Inform students how much time they will have for each group exercise, paired sharing, discussion, etc.; offer a 1- to 3-minute warning before the designated time ends.
  • Involve everyone. Let hesitant students know that you value their contributions, but silence is also acceptable.
  • Encourage the female students, who are often less inclined to embrace STEM2D, to participate, demonstrate their skills, and take a leadership role in the team-based STEM2D activities.
  • Encourage participants to view one another as resources. When a participant makes a comment or asks a question, you can ask the group, “What do you think?” or “Would anyone like to respond to what was just said?”
  • Allow students to summarize what was learned during STEM2D activity.
  • Provide time for students to reflect on what they learned and how it affected their STEM2D beliefs, attitudes, interests, and confidence. They should also reflect on how STEM2D can contribute to society, solve global and local problems, and connect to their everyday lives.
  • Leave discipline of students to the implementation site representative.

Team-Management Tips

  • Give general directions before separating the class into teams.
  • Consider assigning roles in a team. It often is effective to ask the young people to number off, beginning with one, and to remember their numbers. Use the count to assign roles. After an activity, call on a team member by number to report on the team’s experience.
  • Save time by using the same teams for each activity. However, it sometimes becomes necessary to change team membership.
  • Explain to the young people that there are established expectations for teamwork that ensure the success of an activity, project, lab, etc. Share the following expectations:
    • Participants in each team must work together at all times.
    • Everyone participates and shares her or his knowledge.
    • Everyone listens with respect.
  • Remind young people of the established teamwork expectations when necessary.
  • Ask the site representative or other volunteer to assist in assigning team work and circulating among teams to answer questions and keep everyone on task.
  • Encourage team members to help one another.
  • Distinguish between active learning and genuine engagement and disruptive/inattentive behavior. A quiet team is not necessarily good, nor is a talkative team necessarily bad. Rigorous discussions or active simulations often are noisy indicators that the young people are learning.

Communication Tips

  • Keep in mind that communication is more about listening, and less about writing, speaking, and reading combined.
  • Also, over half of communication is about body language, about one-third tone of voice, and less than 10% words spoken. Therefore, it is more important how you say something than what you are saying.
  • Greet the students in a friendly and professional manner as they enter the room. Introduce yourself to each student. Give your name, ask for the student’s name, smile, shake hands (if appropriate), and maintain eye contact. This will make everyone more relaxed. Consider using name tags, or table tents to help you learn names.
  • Ask process questions to ensure a learning experience.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Wait at least 5 seconds for an answer after calling on a student.
  • Don't answer your own questions.
  • Model reflective listening, which is repeating a question or comment made by a participant. This helps all participants to hear what has been said as well as validate that the participant was heard.
  • Tailor your presentation to meet the needs of the young people. Use language, examples, and analogies that the young people can understand, but do not talk down to them. Avoid any use of gender, racial, or ethnic stereotypes.
  • Be yourself. Talk about your early aspirations, your current job, and how you got it. For resources and statistics on the global demand for STEM2D-related occupations that can support your presentation, visit the following websites:
  • Avoid criticizing, placing value, or rejecting wrong answers.
  • Give recognition and positive feedback. Thank each student for contributions, but avoid evaluative comments. Non-verbal recognition includes nodding, smiling, and gestures. Reflective responses are always appropriate.
  • Limit lectures (direct instruction) to no more than 5–10 minutes at a time; lecture usually is the least effective of all teaching strategies.

After the Activity

  • Be the last one to leave, and be respectful by leaving the space as you found it.
  • Reflect back on both the strengths and challenges of the activity, as well as your implementation techniques; make changes, if necessary, for future sessions.
  • Data collection: You will be emailed a volunteer survey approximately two weeks after you read this guide. The survey will ask you to provide information about your activity or event, including the total number of attendees at your activity or event, number of girls and boys served, and their ages. Please complete the Volunteer Data Collection worksheet, which can be found under the “Activity Leader Materials” section of this guide, during your activity in order to capture this information for input into the survey.

When Things Don't Go As Planned

Even under the best circumstances, problems may arise. Below are some tips and suggested things to say.

One student wants to dominate the conversation:

  • Can we hear from someone else who sees it differently?
  • Has anyone else here had a similar experience?
  • You have made some good points. Let me recap what you have said.
  • What do other people hear (Insert Name) saying?

Students are too quiet:
  • Let’s hear from this side of the room (try not to call on participants by name).
  • This question is only for the (Insert a Characteristic, such as students wearing blue, girls with wearing a necklace, students with blue eyes, etc.).
  • Let’s hear from some of you who have not shared yet. Do you agree with what you just heard?
A student gets off the topic:
  • That is very interesting. Now, let’s get back to the original question we were addressing.
  • I appreciate your comment. Since our time is limited, let’s stay focused on the topic at hand.
  • Let’s stay focused so that we can keep moving.
  • How interesting. We could prepare a daylong training on that topic, but right now we need to get back to our agenda.
Students are talking at the same time:
  • We want to hear what everyone has to say, but we will not be able to hear anyone if we talk over one another.
  • Let’s share “air time” so everyone gets a chance to speak.
  • We do not want to miss a great comment.
A student is disagreeable:
  • Everyone has the right to his/her own thoughts and feelings on the subject. Perhaps what we talk about next will be more in alignment to your ideas.
  • It is important to listen respectfully to everyone’s opinions.
  • It sounds like you have some strong feelings about this subject. If you want to, I would be glad to meet with you later and discuss.
  • My experience has shown it can work. I would be happy to share my experience with you.
  • The research shows that it can work. I would be happy to share the research I have about the topic with you.