Massachusetts Nonprofit Spotlight: Science From Scientists
This feature is part of a recurring series on Massachusetts nonprofits, through which Boston Mamas Founder + Editor Christine Koh donates her digital real estate once a month in order to shine a light on great work that is happening in this fine state to help those in need. If you work at or know of a fantastic Massachusetts nonprofit worthy of feature, fill out this form!
This month’s spotlight is on Science From Scientists, an organization that teaches and inspires the next generation to identify and solve real-world problems by improving STEM literacy. The responses below were submitted by Sarah, who a fan of their work.
What is the story behind Science From Scientists?
Science from Scientists (SfS) was founded in 2002 by Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a doctorate in biochemistry from Boston University School of Medicine. Erika's life was strongly shaped by experiential science - winning the California state science fair three times growing up, which led her to choosing a career as a scientist and entrepreneur. As Erika likes to say, "Science from Scientists gives all students the chance to experience the excitement of doing real experiments, making real discoveries and appreciating how amazing our world is."
SfS piloted its first programs in Boston in 2005 with five part-time staff. The organization expanded to San Mateo, CA in 2014, and Minneapolis, MN in 2016. Now with 61 staff members, 54 are instructors for the In-School Module-Based (ISMB) STEM Enrichment Program teaching 8,300 students in 60 schools, and, since bring founded in 2002, SfS has worked with over 50,000 students.
What are the core community activities of Science From Scientists?
In the In-School Module-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math (STEM) program, SfS partners with elementary and middle schools to benefit students in its target population of grades 3 through 8. SfS sends the same two real scientists into each of these partner schools to see the same group of students every other week throughout the duration of the school year. SfS also looks to support classroom teachers with embedded professional developing via our Scientist-Teacher Partnership (STP). In the STP program, teachers attend workshops to learn to deliver SfS materials on their own or with lite support from SfS’ ISMB teaching program. SfS also looks to aid busy parents with the availability of out-of-school curricula such as week-long vacation programs, Science Theater and Community Presentations.
SfS hosted its inaugural Gala on May 7, 2018 where 150 guests joined at Akamai Technologies in Cambridge, MA. Guests in attendance watched as scientists conducted fun experiments, and teachers and students in our school science enrichment program shared powerful stories from the classroom. The Gala was an enormous success and because of the generosity of our supporters, has helped bring enrichment programs to even more schools and students, training opportunities for our partner teachers, and funding scholarships for several students who will be able to attend a week of our summer program.
SfS also participates in a variety of outreach events in schools, local youth clubs, and other organizations throughout the community. These include activity booths and module presentations. These programs enable students, parents, and other community members to experience the exciting, hands-on activities and offer the opportunity to meet our scientists. Some examples are the Red Sox STEM Career Fair, Boston STEM Fair, and CSI Explorations at Babson College.
How has Science From Scientists made an impact?
The program goals are to improve the attitudes and aptitudes of 3rd-8th graders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. At each partner school, SfS measures the success of the program with a few various metrics. First, the organization compares student scores on the Science, Technology, Engineering (STE) Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which is administered in 5th-grade, before and after each school’s participation in the SfS program. During the 2016-17 academic year, in Massachusetts, SfS observed an average 14% improvement in the number of students scoring Proficient/Advanced on the 5th-grade STE MCAS. In addition, scientists also include in each module a pre- and post-lesson quiz that allows us to assess the effectiveness of each lesson, as well as students’ retention of the subject matter. During the 2016-17 academic year, SfS saw a collective 14.3% improvement rate from the pre-lesson to the post-lesson quizzes. SfS also piloted a student feedback survey that received over 1,100 responses indicating 93% of students enjoyed having SfS in their classroom and 90% of our partner schools return year after year.
What’s an example of how Science From Scientists has made a difference?
Beyond the increase in test scores and information retention rates, SfS has had numerous students who have gone through the program return to us while in high school, stating that they have decided to pursue careers in STEM because of their experiences with SfS. Seeing the measurable impact on the lives of young, budding scientists who wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to STEM concepts has been captivating to see as an organization.
Additionally, in 2017 Science from Scientists announced The SpectacuLAB, an interactive show in collaboration with Walt Disney World and Murata technologies. The experience is in the Innoventions Pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and features demonstrations that bring the wonders of science and innovation to life. The interactive and entertaining experiments encourage guests to discover how science and technology come together to develop consumer products including mobile devices, healthcare equipment and automotive electronics. Backed by one of the world’s largest entertainment conglomerates, the partnership further validates the need for STEM education and its centralized location in Disney World is helping our organization engage larger audiences.
What does Science From Scientists need most right now?
Outside of funding, our greatest challenge is retaining staffing. Based on our rigorous interviewing process, it can sometimes be challenging to find the right charismatic scientists to join our team of instructors who are comfortable sharing information at a 5th grade level. Another need of our program is enticing teachers to join the professional development program as we typically only see 5-10% of them take part in the program, which we would love to increase in the coming years. Meeting the demand for our highly sought-after program is also a need, as we currently have over 40 schools on our SfS waitlist throughout Massachusetts, California and Minnesota.
Thank you, Science From Scientists, for all you are doing for students in Boston and across the country! If you want to support Science From Scientists, an easy way would be to share this feature. And another great way would be to drop them a donation!