Story Prompts

Prompts for Students or Professionals Who Have Been Incarcerated

If you need a little help getting started, you can use any of the following questions. Whether or not you use the questions, write or speak about whatever is meaningful to you. You will see that each main question is followed by follow-up questions that could help give some context and/or focus your narrative.

  1. Who most positively influenced your educational experiences? Why and how?

  2. Who most negatively influenced your educational experiences? Why and how?

  3. What classes impacted you the most in prison? Why?
    • How did they shape your academic experiences?
    • How did they change your personal life?

  4. What academic subjects did you feel most comfortable with in your early school years?
    • What appealed to you about those subjects?
    • What did NOT appeal to you about other subjects?
    • How did this attraction influence your career interests or other aspects of your life?

  5. What do you recall about learning science and math in prison?
    • What were those experiences like?
    • How were they positive and/or negative?
    • How did they shape the way you view science and math now?

  6. How would you describe your relationship with science and math?
    • Do you consider yourself a “science person”? Why or why not?
    • Do you consider yourself a “math person”? Why or why not?

  7. What is your earliest memories of learning science and/or math?
    • How did that experience shape the way you view or use science and/or math now?
    • What stands out to you MOST about that memory? Why?

  8. Who was the first person in your life to make you think you could “do” science and/or math?
    • How old were you?
    • How did that person’s approach impact your life?
    • If you have never been encouraged to learn science and/or math, how has that impacted your life?
    • If you have never felt successful in science and math, why do you think that is?
    • What might be different for you if you HAD felt successful in science and math?

  9. How have your experiences with science and math influenced your life?
    • In what ways have they helped or hindered your learning and growth?
    • How do you use science and math in your day-to-day life?

  10. What do you wish you had learned earlier in life about science and math? Why?
    • How might learning these lessons sooner have changed your life?

  11. What lessons are you glad you learned early in life, whether through formal or informal STEM education? Why?
    • How did those lessons shape your life?
    • What might your life look like now if you had NOT learned those lessons early?

  12. What are your most positive and/or negative memories of learning science and math?
    • How old were you at the time?
    • Why do you think they impacted you the way they did?

  13. What are your earliest memories of education, either formal or informal?
    • How did those experiences shape your life?
    • Who encouraged or discouraged your early learning, and what did you find most encouraging or discouraging about their approach?

  14. What kind of access to technology did you have before you were incarcerated? A smart phone? A laptop? Home Internet access?

  15. What kind of access to technology did you have during your incarceration? Tablets? Email? Computer-based training?

  16. How was the technology you encountered upon release that was different from what you had inside?

Prompts for Instructors and Administrators of Prison Education Programs

These questions focus on your engagement with STEM education in prison. You do not need to use these questions, and should feel free to write about whatever is meaningful to you. You might also consider the questions in the previous section that feel relevant to your own experiences as a doer of STEM as they shape your experiences now.

  1. What is the main focal area for your program?
  2. What do you and your program hope to contribute regarding education while in prison? Regarding mass incarceration?
  3. Why do you teach or support STEM education?
  4. The first time you taught in prison, what was your motivation? How did this experience impact you?
  5. What would you say is most remarkable about the students you have met inside?
  6. What barriers have you faced while trying to teach STEM to your students inside?
  7. What resources would make the most difference in your teaching of STEM inside?
  8. What policies do you see as barriers to you being able to do what you want and hope as an instructor and/or program director?
  9. What policies do you see as barriers to students being able to achieve their potential?