Philanthropic efforts to introduce lay audiences to science tend to fall into two categories: The first, more traditional, approach is familiar to anyone who has ever visited a museum exhibit, tuned in to a documentary on public television or browsed an educational website. These efforts are like lighthouses: They beckon people brightly and illuminate, but they tend to summon those who are already comfortable sailing over. That’s where the complementary approach comes in, which could be described as ‘meeting people where they already are.’ These projects are not lighthouses but instead are like brightly colored buoys — they may not beckon like a lighthouse, but you can place more of them strategically in the water.
The Simons Foundation’s new education and outreach initiative, Science Sandbox, was designed with the latter approach in mind — to meet people where they are and expose them to the thrills of the scientific process and scientific thinking. The initiative provides grants and support to projects that seek to inspire scientific thinking in people who may not live in a city with a world-class museum, may not watch public television regularly, or may not even be aware that science is something they can relate to.