Teacher Externships show educators how to deal with the next generation of health and cybersecurity threats

During our Teacher Externship, educators from Boston Public Schools across all levels of education listened to and engaged with employees from several STEM-based companies. The event itself was split into two separate externships, one dedicated to cybersecurity with presentations from Rapid 7, Dell, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and one dedicated to life sciences with presentations from Schrodinger, Novartis, and Eli Lilly. On the final day of the event, the teachers reconvened for a showcase on their takeaways from the various companies and how they would integrate what they learned into their classes. The next two sections will focus on the two externships, the conversations that came from them, and the conclusions drawn from them. 

“Our goal with externships,” said BoSTEM Director Joe Rosenbaum, “is to bridge the gap between industry and education for our biggest student influencers – their teachers. Through partnering with STEM companies directly, teachers gain both the knowledge and social capital to answer the age-old question from students: Why do I need to learn this?”

Training the next generation of cybersecurity experts

During our cybersecurity externship, educators not only learned about how to keep themselves and students more secure online, but how students can utilize their skills in the technology industry regardless if they have a technology background or not by fostering “soft skills”. During Rapid 7’s presentation they compared their company’s core values to that of the Boston Public School’s system and discussed how these overlapped. After learning about issues in cybersecurity such as hacking and safety from scams from Rapid 7, Dell, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, educators saw the opportunity to educate students and their parents about issues in cybersecurity to prevent scams and hackers.

“I think I’m definitely going to start having classes on cybersecurity with parents,” Ferroudja Mahious of the Baldwin Early Learning Center said. “We’re going to teach them how to make sure that their passwords are strong enough to not get hacked.”

They also saw the opportunity to bring up debates about ethics in cybersecurity as well.

“We’re going to start incorporating these ethical discussions in the computer science class, but also in our history and civic classrooms so that it is being talked about by everyone, not just people in the computer science pathway,” Timothy Harrison-Reyes of Brighton High school said.

Whether it be through coding skills or other soft skills, companies like Dell and Rapid 7 along with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston are ready to usher in the next generation of cybersecurity experts. For more information on these companies check out these STEM chats from employees at Rapid 7 and Dell.

Vaccine education for the community

For the life sciences portion of our teacher externship, companies like Eli Lilly held important dialogues with educators about one of the most important topics facing the world today—vaccines. Representatives from Eli Lilly gave a detailed presentation on how drugs and vaccines work and specifically how the new COVID-19 vaccines functioned. This led to long conversations between the employees and educators about how to teach students and families about vaccines and vaccine safety.

“I’m looking forward to bringing these new technologies to the classroom, especially because of COVID to make students more comfortable, when it’s time for them to take the vaccine or when it’s their parents’ time to take the vaccine because people are nervous about it, especially because it was produced so quickly,” Florence Tsan, a teacher from Brighton High School said. “One of our goals in part of this learning is to educate our children, our students about it, our families, and to take away some of the fear.”

In our teacher externship showcase, teachers spoke about how important it was to learn about these new medical technologies and how they would use these skills to not only educate their students, but the community as a whole. One educator talked about how she would begin to educate her kindergarten students on cells and biology using videos from Eli Lilly and other life science externship presenters.

“I wanted to do this externship because life science is a big concept area for us in kindergarten, but typically, we are learning about plants and animals,” Greer McCormick, a teacher from the Henderson Inclusion School said. “We spend one unit on animals and one unit on plants. But with COVID, I noticed my students now have health at the forefront of their minds.”

Looking forward

Overall from the externships and showcase we saw how companies interacting with educators can help our school communities in a symbiotic way. These companies were able to help teachers, who have a direct voice to BPS students, to better understand issues in cybersecurity and life sciences. This in turn can help diversify these fields of work by inspiring the next generation of STEM workers from BPS by introducing these topics to students early in their education. The majority of educators reported they felt prepared to teach these topics to their students. 

Andrea Zayas, the Chief Academic Officer for Boston Public Schools, stressed the importance of these relationships between companies and educators. “What you all did this week was explore real world problems. And what I’m hopeful about is that all of that thinking and great work that you’ve done this week, can be brought back into our classrooms for students to explore not only the content, but the type of learning that you did,” Zayas said. “That was real world, hands-on experience, and quite relevant to vaccine development and cybersecurity and the kinds of issues that we face in the real world, which makes the learning that much more relevant and immediate. It can actually be applied right now.”

Thank you to all the organizations who spent time making this possible: Boston Public Schools, Rapid 7, Dell, The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Schrodinger, Novartis, Eli Lilly, Life Science Cares, and MassBioEd.

To learn about our upcoming events (including movie nights, math escape rooms and medical board games), access to a library of video conversations with STEM professionals, and more lesson plans/STEM activities to do at home join our weekly newsletter! If your email is overwhelming right now consider joining our facebook group. Finally, if you are a STEM professional or know of a STEM professional that might be willing to do events like this send them here