Science Sandbox Grantees Come Together for Third Annual Summit

More than 50 Science Sandbox grantees convened at the Simons Foundation for the two-day event.

On June 10 and 11, the Simons Foundation’s Science, Society & Culture (SSC) division hosted its third annual Awardee Summit at the foundation’s headquarters in New York City. Representatives from the division’s Science Sandbox community of active awardees spoke about professional and organizational development, participated in roundtable discussions and engaged in networking opportunities with fellow awardees.

Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation’s Science, Society & Culture division, awards grants to organizations from across the United States that work to highlight the role that science plays in society and culture. Throughout the summit, Sandbox awardees welcomed newcomers, strengthened their existing bonds and explored new opportunities for their organizations.

The first morning opened with “Welcome to the Sandbox,” a panel moderated by SSC program director John Tracey. Tracey welcomed three new Summit Awardees: Sandy Adams from STEMcx, Nevada Winrow from Black Girls Dive and Steven Melendez from the New York Theater Ballet. The session provided an opportunity for them to introduce themselves to the wider Sandbox community while discussing the triumphs and challenges they’ve faced while building their organizations and programs. Tapping into the immense experience of those in the room, the panelists were able to have a larger conversation with their peers around issues such as community and parental engagement and sustainability.

Panel of four speakers sitting in directors' chairs in an auditorium.
Panelists present during the ”Welcome to the Sandbox” presentation. Arin Sang-urai for Simons Foundation

A popular suggestion from last year’s Summit survey data was to include opportunities for participants to learn more about their fellow grantees. Thus, the “Lightning Intro” segment of the program was born. Each awardee was given roughly three minutes to briefly tell their organization’s story. More than 20 organizations participated.

Black woman with glasses holding a microphone standing in an auditorium.
Tokiwa Smith from SEM Link participates in a “lightning intro.” Arin Sang-urai for Simons Foundation

Following a conversation-filled lunch with the newly acquainted group, each awardee headed to their pre-selected roundtable discussions facilitated by SSC’s Advisory Committee and network of trusted partners. The groups had the opportunity to discuss their shared areas of interest, including effective fundraising methods and preparing their organization for long-term success. To conclude the first day, Science Sandbox invited STEM-focused philanthropy and foundation leaders to meet the grantees and communicate their programmatic focus areas.

The second day focused on the inaugural two recipients of the Bridge Grant, a five-year grant open only to Science Sandbox awardees that recognizes outstanding and sustained contributions to the field of science engagement. In early 2024, Science Sandbox announced its 2024 Bridge Grant recipients: Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM) and STEM from Dance. In a conversation led by SSC advisory board member Liz Neeley, the community listened to BEAM founder and CEO Daniel Zaharopol and STEM from Dance founder and CEO Yamilée Toussaint discuss the joys, challenges and realities of growing an organization.

Following their conversation with Neeley, Sandbox awardees had the opportunity to bring questions to the leadership and other team members from the Bridge Grant organizations in an “ask me anything” breakout session.

The 2024 Science Sandbox Awardee Summit was an opportunity to bring together this ambitious, diverse and passionate community. Fostering opportunities for organizations to connect in person has always been a priority of SSC. This year’s summit was a testament to its value.

Sandbox Summit attendees and Science, Society and Culture staff
Summit attendees gather for a photo at the event’s reception. Emily Tan/Simons Foundation
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