I scream, you scream, we all scream for SCIENCE!

By Morgan Reuter [ mreuter@mail.med.upenn.edu ]

Do you love science? I know I do. Yes, I feel burned-out by failed experiments. Yes, I get discouraged when projects don’t progress fast enough. But, I still love science. My interest in science started when I was a child. Mr. Wizard’s World and Bill Nye the Science Guy were two of my favorite shows; I planned my own “science experiments” in my family’s kitchen (much to my mother’s dismay); and my school hosted Science Days and took us to museums on field trips. Looking back, I see how fortunate I was that my school district had enough funding for these excellent activities.

Unfortunately, the city of Philadelphia contains many public schools that are underserved. The children that attend these schools are excited to learn, but too many of the schools do not have enough funding to maintain a strong science curriculum or have enough staff to give focused periods of attention to every child. Two members of the University of Pennsylvania community, Danielle Haney and Jay Gardner, founded a fantastic organization called Science Education Academy (SEA) in 2008 to help support the schools’ science education and to share their love of science with the local community. SEA is a community partnership between White Rock Baptist Church and Ernest E. Just Biomedical Society at the University of Pennsylvania, and was created to supplement science education for children in Philadelphia’s underserved school districts. Since its inception, SEA has grown to an enrollment of 30 children and 25 volunteers.

SEA is held on Saturday mornings from 9:00am-11:30am, October through May, and consists of 7 week modules focused on various aspects of science. Examples of lesson topics include: chemistry, plants and insects, rocks and minerals, and weather. Each week, scientific professionals, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows gather to teach these concepts to second through fifth-grade students. They stimulate students’ curiosity using fun, hands-on experiments based on the scientific method. Additionally, SEA helps fourth- through sixth-grade students participate in the George Washington Carver Regional Science Fair. The SEA children have been very successful at this science fair, and many have received awards for their projects. Furthermore, SEA hosts special presentations by science experts from places like the Academy of Natural Sciences and The Franklin Institute, and organizes field trips to local arboretums and museums during the summer months.

This year, SEA is sponsoring its first large-scale summer event, the Community Research Carnival. The Carnival will be held on Saturday, July 21 from 11:30am-3pm at the White Rock Baptist Church gymnasium at 5240 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. The Carnival is geared towards children in kindergarten through the sixth grade. Children and their families will be able to participate in scientific experiments and attend scientific presentations from local experts that are geared towards the general public. The Community Research Carnival’s goal is to get children interested in, and excited about, science. With an anticipated turnout of 50-100 kids and their families, this event promises to be full of energy and enthusiasm. If you are interested in participating in the Community Research Carnival, SEA is actively recruiting volunteers to give presentations, run experiments, or help with setup/tear down. If you are interested in participating in the Community Research Carnival, or any of these programs, please email SEA at sea.philly2008@gmail.com to volunteer and learn more about how you can help.

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