FIRST HAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER

Vol. 3, No. 4

IN THIS ISSUE:

1. CELEBRATING AFTERSCHOOL SCIENCE

2. SCIENCE FIRSTHAND: ST. LOUIS

3. EAST HARLEM TO LAUNCH SCIENCE FIRSTHAND

1. “YOUNG INVESTIGATORS CONFERENCE” SHOWCASES THE WORK OF SCIENCE FIRSTHAND PARTICIPANTS

SCIENCE FIRSTHAND celebrated the end of a year of after-school science exploration with a bang. As with all serious scientific endeavors, it is important to share results and communicate with colleagues. With this as a goal, participants in Science Firsthand (SF) in Buffalo, NY were invited to take part in a “Young Investigators Conference”. Held at the Buffalo Zoo on a Sunday afternoon in April, the event brought over 170 people together from across the city – adult/youth teams, community center personnel, family members, and the public at large. It became a celebration of the participants’ investigatory work and a showcase for what they had learned during their months of firsthand inquiry.

The topics were wonderfully diverse; all seven community centers presented displays of SF projects, from posters to hands-on activities to live creatures to observe. The most popular stations offered opportunities for direct exploration – with pond animals, paper-making, ram air cars (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_air), slime, and milkweed bugs. Many attendees were fascinated by monitoring the effect of exercise (running) on skin temperature using an infrared thermometer.

To view a selection of conference photos, two short video clips of kids in action, and more, go to www.firsthandlearning.org/yic.html

Interested in getting investigations rolling where you are? Check out these “starter activities”: http://journal.firsthandlearning.org/cities/default.aspx?
tab=journals&search=Starter&cityID=0&centerID=16>

For a list of helpful supplies, equipment, and books, check out the items posted on Science Firsthand’s online journal: http://journal.firsthandlearning.org/teams/
default.aspx?prevtab=journals&teamID=136>

Young Investigators Conferences are a wonderful way to bring communities and families together, to showcase the science inquiry in which local youth are involved, and to celebrate their accomplishments. Coordinating the event requires some effort of course (participants were bused from their respective community centers to the Zoo, and local businesses were asked to donate food and prizes). If you would like to learn more about hosting a Young Investigators Conference in your area, contact inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.

SCIENCE FIRSTHAND, an after-school mentoring program funded by the National Science Foundation, engages urban middle-school students and their adult mentors in pursuing science investigations of their own choosing. Meeting weekly at local community centers, pairs investigate natural and man-made phenomena, design experiments, record observations, ask new questions, go off on tangents, and basically explore what fascinates them in science. In Buffalo, New York the program has been up and running at seven community centers around the city for over a year now, involving over 100 children who attend at least one afternoon per week after school. Activities have been rich, varied, and unpredictable!

2. WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE GATEWAY CITY

In St. Louis, MO, the St. Louis Science Center (http://www.slsc.org/) is using Science Firsthand as a mechanism for reaching new audiences. Through its Taylor Community Science Resource Center (http://www.slsc.org/content.aspx?id=360), the Science Center already has a vibrant outreach to community centers in low-income neighborhoods. Now the Center’s staff are building relationships with existing community mentoring programs by introducing them to Science Firsthand.

Discovering Options is one such organization (http://www.discoveringoptions.org/). Its mentor/youth pairs come once a month to the Taylor Center for a combination of self-guided exploratory stations and a guided workshop. They are then encouraged to continue these activities on their own in the intervening weeks (through loans of materials).

The Chinese Language School's parents and youth come to monthly meetings and, in addition, have a weekly meeting with a Taylor Center staffer at their school. (http://www.stlcls.org/)

100 Black Men (http://100bmstl.org/) is a group mentoring organization that also wants the Taylor Center to bring SF to its site.

As additional mentoring organizations approach the Science Center asking to become part of Science Firsthand, the Taylor staff are devising an approach that moves teams from a high level of support (instruction at the organization's site and the provision of materials), to a middle level of support (instruction at Taylor for adult members and the provision of materials to use with the youth at the partner's site), to independence (resources at the organization's site). The Taylor staff hope that the longer these partnerships run, the more capable the community-based organizations will be at recruiting and training new SF participants from within their ranks.

Check out some of the investigations St. Louis-based teams have been working on by visiting the Science Firsthand on-line journal at http://journal.firsthandlearning.org/cities/default.aspx?cityID=1

3. NYC ORGANIZATIONS PARTNER TO OFFER SCIENCE FIRSTHAND

Currently established and thriving in Buffalo, NY and St. Louis, MO, Science Firsthand will soon be up and running in a third location: New York City!

The after-school science mentoring program will draw its youth participants from the ninth-grade students attending the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics (http://www.mcsm.net/), a public high school located in East Harlem that acquires its student body from all over the city.

The school benefits from a close relationship with the Children’s Aid Society (http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/), which provides after-school programming currently and will be instrumental in supporting and administering this new initiative. The Children’s Aid Society will work to identify adult mentors willing to launch science investigations in partnership with the school’s students.

The New York Restoration Project (http://www.nyrp.org/) will also be a key partner. Founded by Bette Midler to reclaim, restore, and maintain neglected public spaces, this nonprofit organization will provide scientific expertise, access to more mentors, and great opportunities for ecology-related field projects.

The partnership is in place, 25 pairs of students and mentors will be identified early in the fall, and it is hoped that they will begin their after-school science investigations by October. We’ll keep you updated on the progress.

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We hope you found this edition of the FIRSTHAND E-NEWSLETTER informative. Please contact us with any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have by emailing us at: inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.

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