WHO WE ARE
Science Club was developed in close collaboration between the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, teachers from Chicago Public Schools, and Northwestern University. The program aims to promote engagement in the sciences and to close the science achievement gap for underserved youth in Chicago.
Since 2008, Science Club has recruited over 100 scientist mentors to work with small groups of youth every week throughout the school year at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. The program was originally funded by the NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) and has since grown with the generous support of the Silverstein Foundation, Shaw Family Foundation, and The Driskill Foundation.
The First Sessions of Science Club
Chicago Public School teachers were looking for a way to engage their students in real-world science and engineering research. In 2008, they would often contact Dr. Michael Kennedy, then the Director of Education and Outreach for the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University, to arrange for field trips to a lab or for a scientist to visit the classroom.
There was clearly a need to connect Chicago kids to scientists.
While these experiences were always exciting for the students and the scientists, there had to be a way to make a bigger impact on the kids and build their confidence, abilities, and interest in science over the long-term.
After working together with the Boys & Girls Clubs and with Chicago Public School teachers, Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Carolyn Jahn launched the Science Club program in the spring of 2008. Four Northwestern University scientists volunteered to mentor about 12 kids at the Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club. It was an early success!
Science Club Receives National Institutes for Health Grant
Both kids and mentors were enthusiastic about Science Club. In 2009, Science Club received its first major funding from a competitive $1.5 million, five-year grant from National Institutes for Health Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA).
Funding from the NIH allowed the program to grow. Starting in Fall 2009, Science Club began to serve 40 youth a week with the help of 20 scientist mentors. Science Club was now meeting two days a week at the Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club.
The NIH grant also funded a formal education research study. The Science Club study examined whether a small-group, mentorship-led model for science education could significantly impact youth science engagement and habits of mind along with building mentor skills in teaching and communicating.
Work also begins to create the Science Club curriculum. Six new hands-on modules are created in collaboration between Northwestern University staff, scientist volunteers, and Chicago Public School teachers.
Science Club Serves More Youth
Interest in Science Club continued to grow. By 2012, Science Club was serving 60 Chicago youth every week with the support of 30 scientist mentors. The partnership with Goudy Elementary School in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago helped create a steady stream of students interested in Science Club.
Other kids at the Boys & Girls Club also started developing an interest in STEM programs. The Junior Science Club program began engaging K-5 youth in science and teaching them fundamental science skills. Promoting Innercity Youth in Science and Medicine (PRISM), a program managed by the Northwestern University MSTP students, teaches high school youth about health-medicine careers.
Science Club Wins STEM Impact Award
The Afterschool Alliance and Noyce Foundation awarded Science Club its inaugural STEM Impact Award in 2013. Competing against 200 other after school programs, Science Club was one of two programs to win a $10,000 award.
“This is an outstanding program, no question about it,” said James Keane, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. “Science Club participants understand they really can achieve their dreams. Our children are getting the best level of science education at their ages anywhere.”
Science Club Expands to Little Village
The summative report for Science Club shows that the program has a profound effect on both youth and mentors. Data shows that youth emerge from the program with greater confidence in their problem solving abilities, a better understanding of the scientific method, and alumni are going on to STEM careers. Mentors also report gaining valuable skills and a strong desire to incorporate community engagement in their careers.
Based on this success, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago collaborate with Northwestern University to start a second Science Club site at the True Value Boys & Girls Club in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. With the support of the American Honda Foundation, Science Club begins serving 100 youth a week and training 50 scientist mentors. Scientists from University of Illinois-Chicago and University of Chicago also start volunteering with the program.
Science Club Summer Camp Begins
The mentorship-based model for Science Club provides the foundation for Science Club Summer Camp, a new teacher professional development program focused on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The Science Club teams wins a second $1.2 million NIH SEPA grant for Science Club Summer Camp. Fourteen teachers participate in the first cohort.
Seventy-five Boys & Girls Club elementary youth (ages 7-9) also participate in 10-weeks of hands-on science and engineering fun.
Science Club Summer Camp runs at the Pedersen-McCormick and True Value Boys & Girls Clubs, providing Chicago Public School teachers and youth with a supportive place to explore STEM and to learn to think like scientists.