Science Sandbox: Funded Projects

We support projects in many different areas across disparate platforms — including film and other media productions, informal education experiences, live science events, and awareness campaigns. Below is a list of current and past projects funded by the foundation’s portfolio dedicated to public engagement.

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  • 100Kin10

    100Kin10

    December 2014 - Present

    Network of organizations working to improve the quality of STEM classroom instruction and contribute to the goal of 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021.

    100Kin10 is a network of organizations working to provide America’s classrooms with 100,000 excellent STEM teachers by 2021. 100Kin10 helps its partners contribute individually to this mission and organizes collective action to break down systemic barriers to reaching this goal.

    100Kin10 began this work in March 2015 by interviewing STEM teachers, principals and other experts to develop a list of challenge areas. These challenge areas were workshopped over the course of 2015 by partners and other stakeholders, including STEM teacher leaders and winners of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. A finalized set of grand challenges will be developed by late 2016.

    To help eliminate these challenges, 100Kin10 has created a STEM fellowship, named the Y Combinator. Currently in its second year, the fellowship brings together a cohort of leaders who focus on one particular challenge. The first group of fellows tackled the challenge of improving engineering and computer science education in grades K-12; 2016 fellows are working on methods to help elementary school teachers teach STEM disciplines in ambitious, effective and inspiring new ways.

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    Billion Oyster Project

    December 2015 - Present

    Project to restore the New York Harbor oyster population by teaching students to help lead the effort and recruiting volunteers of all ages.

    Billion Oyster Project (BOP) aims to restore 1 billion oysters to New York Harbor over the next 20 years while educating the young people of New York City about their local marine environment.

    Oysters are icons of New York’s cultural history and the keystone species of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary. Oyster reefs were the backbone of what was formerly one of the most biodiverse estuaries on the planet. The reefs provide habitat for thousands of species of fish and invertebrates by removing excess nitrogen from the water. Without its oysters, New York Harbor has lost much of its biodiversity.

    The students of New York Harbor School, BOP’s flagship institution, have restored more than 16 million oysters. In the process, they have learned scuba diving, raised oyster larvae, operated and maintained vessels, built and run commercial-scale oyster nurseries, designed underwater monitoring equipment, and conducted long-term research projects.

    To support the work of growing and restoring oysters, BOP builds reefs, collects and repurposes shells from restaurants, and provides middle school teachers with materials for teaching math and science through the lens of oyster restoration.

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    BioBus and BioBase

    December 2014 - Present

    Mobile lab that brings hands-on science to underserved students in New York City, with a research lab base on the Lower East Side and in Harlem.

    The Simons Foundation supports BioBus’s expansion of its community lab programs, which bring hands-on science to students in Harlem, one of Manhattan’s lowest-income school districts, where test scores lag behind citywide levels. The BioBus mobile lab and the BioBase brick-and-mortar lab offer research-grade laboratory experiences led by scientists, giving students from demographics that are underrepresented in STEM careers the opportunity to excel.

    The BioBus parks at a school in the New York City area almost every day of the school year and provides an introductory lab course to K-12 students, typically with six classes and up to 180 students per day. BioBus students gain a more positive attitude toward science and are more likely to see themselves in a STEM career.

    At the BioBase, students take in-depth classes and participate in after-school programs and summer camps, studying biological, environmental and materials sciences. By designing their own experiments, they gain a better understanding of the complex web of life. As students progress, some become interns and help to develop curriculum for future students.

    BioBus hosts ‘science happy hours,’ in which scientists give talks aimed at a general audience, and attends public events to facilitate connections between scientists and the community.

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    Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University

    December 2015 - Present

    University program that trains journalists to write about science accurately and in ways that engage the general public.

    The Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University trains scientists to write engagingly for mass audiences, and trains journalists to cover science with precision and nuance as well as passion. With support from the Simons Foundation, the institute is expanding its four-week science communication workshops, which have already trained more than 500 science doctoral students, postdocs and medical students in the basics of effective science writing for lay readers. The foundation’s support will also enable the institute to begin training senior scientists, starting this fall. In addition, the Carter Institute is creating new opportunities for science journalism graduate students to collaborate with scientists in ways that both reflect and anticipate shifts in communications technology. The institute will also expand its efforts to bring preeminent science communicators, both scientists and journalists, to NYU for evening conversations that will be streamed live on the institute’s website. The initial speaker lineup includes Particle Fever director Mark Levinson, Harvard geneticist George Church, New York Times special projects writer Amy Harmon and climatologist Gavin Schmidt.

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  • Genspace

    Genspace

    October 2015 - Present

    The first community biotechnology laboratory, located in Brooklyn and offering access and science courses to teachers, entrepreneurs and the general public.

    Genspace serves the greater New York area by providing hands-on science courses for the general public, extracurricular experiences for students, and low-cost lab memberships and mentoring. These programs offer people the unique opportunity to work on their own projects and experience the joy and wonder of science firsthand.

    Through internships and competition teams, Genspace allows participants to pursue personalized research projects in fields such as synthetic biology and genomics. Students learn experimental design and laboratory skills while gaining an understanding of the daily life of a research scientist. For high school teachers, Genspace offers inexpensive lab memberships and training to help them bring molecular and synthetic biology into their classrooms. Genspace also supports ‘bioentrepreneurs,’ and several startups have launched from its lab space in areas such as laboratory automation, alternative feedstocks, consumer products and biomaterials.

    Genspace believes that the best way to promote understanding of 21st-century technology is through dialogue and participation. Its lab classes for adults encourage discussion of the societal impact of new technologies and the ethical questions they raise. Genspace presents a variety of talks, workshops and art/science initiatives, such as the Biodesign Challenge, and hosts teams from the Urban Barcode Project.

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    Guerilla Science

    December 2015 - Present

    Organization with a mission to reach new audiences by bringing exciting and accessible science installations to unexpected places.

    Guerilla Science brings science into unusual settings such as pop-up storefronts, raucous parties and public spaces. These encounters promote thought-provoking conversations between diverse communities of people and engage a wide cross-section of scientifically underserved adults through science-inspired experiences that are relevant to their lives. This is accomplished through a program of daring activities at music festivals, a series of experimental live events designed to attract widespread attention, and a digital platform that translates live experiences into an online space that draws a wider audience.

    As part of its work, Guerilla Science trains scientists in an avant-garde method of science outreach, offering them valuable experience in engaging with nonscientists in unconventional ways. Guerilla Science plans to contribute to academic research on effective informal science learning, and to act as a role model for best practices within the outreach community and in the wider scientific world.

    Guerilla Science’s goal is to become a self-sustaining organization with reduced reliance on grant support. The organization is working to develop commercial revenue streams and to expand its reach internationally, beyond its current base in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

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  • Hypothesis

    Hypothesis

    December 2015 - Present

    Two-minute radio segment exploring scientific phenomena and revealing the science behind everything in the New York metro area.

    The WNYC newsroom’s new segment “Hypothesis” is a quick and informative introduction to science. Airing bimonthly during WNYC’s Morning Edition, it’s a two-minute excursion into the unknown. The goal of each segment is to unveil the science that surrounds us in New York City in less time than it takes to fry an egg. A listener wrote in about a segment on how rock salt melts ice, saying: “I like this simple explanation of a scientific phenomenon we walk over every day.” One segment highlighted a newly identified species of frog native to New York City, while another shared the results of a recent paper by a mammalogist at the City University of New York on the presence of gray whales in the Atlantic Ocean. “Hypothesis” routinely features New York City scientists discussing their research and its connection to the region. It is also partly listener-driven, with producers inviting listeners to contribute ideas for future segments, which they can do by tweeting @WNYC with the hashtag #hypothesis.

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    Iridescent

    December 2015 - Present

    Working to improve STEM education by strengthening parental involvement and effectively communicating the importance of STEM to parents in underserved communities.

    Iridescent is a STEM education nonprofit that has helped 3,000 engineers and scientists teach open-ended engineering design challenges to 33,500 underserved students and their parents over the past decade.

    Iridescent is conducting a three-year study to determine the impact of parental involvement in STEM activities on student achievement. The program is being implemented by Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Lyons School District 103 in Illinois, and the research is being carried out by Martin Storksdieck, director of the Center for Research on Lifelong Learning at Oregon State University. Iridescent is supporting 350 children and parents, 10 educators and 50 mentors at two low-performing schools, providing up to 30,000 project-based learning hours. In addition, Iridescent is developing eight STEM training videos for parents, which will be widely distributed.

    The project is the first research study on the impact of long-term parental involvement in STEM projects on students’ academic performance.

    Through this project, Iridescent will determine how to communicate the importance of STEM education to parents in underserved communities using media partners such as Univision and the Televisa Foundation. The project will also enable Iridescent to develop and disseminate problem-solving strategies that can be easily implemented by informal education practitioners across the country.

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  • JoesBigIdea

    Joe’s Big Idea

    December 2014 – December 2015

    Program that involves live appearances by NPR radio host Joe Palca to teach effective science communication, to students and science educators, through storytelling.

    Joe’s Big Idea is a radio series produced by NPR science journalist Joe Palca and featured on NPR’s newsmagazines, website, blogs and social media pages. The series explores the people, inspirations and ideas that fuel scientific discovery. A well-established and increasingly popular staple of NPR’s science coverage, Joe’s Big Idea cuts through jargon and statistics to deliver compelling narratives that capture the wonder, curiosity and creativity at the heart of scientific endeavor while also introducing millions of NPR listeners to new theories, inventions and innovations.

    With the support of the Simons Foundation, Joe’s Big Idea has expanded in recent years to include a full live-event series in which Palca travels across the country appearing before a variety of audiences — often students and science educators — to share his unique style of storytelling with the next generation of science communicators. Through this series, Palca is working with a community of science graduate students and postdocs to explore new ways to expand the program’s social media presence and further establish Joe’s Big Idea as fun, multiplatform journalism that not only provides information but also helps inspire a deeper fascination with science.

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    Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

    December 2014 - December 2015

    Summer STEM programs for students in grades K-12, with the mission of developing worldwide talent and cultivating their students’ passion for science.

    One day this summer at Johns Hopkins University, Caitlin Hogan synthesized quantum dots. Muriel Leung wrote code to track health trends in social media. And Benjamin Aladejebi studied cells extracted from SIV-positive primates to learn how the disease, the simian form of HIV, affects the nervous system.

    This level of work is customary for Hopkins undergraduates, graduate students and faculty researchers — but Caitlin, Muriel and Benjamin are still teenagers. They’re among the seven high school juniors and seniors who spent six weeks this summer in faculty labs immersed in scientific research through the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Summer Research Program.

    The program was established in 2015 with support from the Simons Foundation. Part of the Simons gift also supports an ongoing middle school science teaching project that brings together teachers and content experts to develop innovative science lessons.

    Funding from the Simons Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing research in basic science and mathematics, provided each CTY Summer Researcher with a partial merit scholarship. Students were selected for the program on a need-blind basis, with additional need-based financial aid for those who qualified.

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    Junior Achievement STEM Summit

    December 2014 - Present

    Daylong science conference for high school students offering hands-on activities to spark their interest in STEM subjects.

    STEM programs typically target students who already have an interest in science, technology, engineering or math. Junior Achievement’s STEM Initiative aims to reach all students at grade level and to inspire students who were not already interested in these areas.

    The STEM Summit is a free daylong conference for ninth graders, held at local high schools, that showcases STEM-based career opportunities and gives students the opportunity to perform hands-on science and engineering experiments. Junior Achievement brings the program, materials and volunteers to each school with the goal of inspiring students to choose STEM-related courses throughout high school.

    The conference is fast-paced, interactive, engaging and fun. Participants are divided into nine groups that rotate through three types of activities: career panels, experiments and competitions. Each module runs 30 minutes, and experiments and competitions showcase how science, technology and engineering connect to the professional world. The day closes with a wrap-up session ending with a “wow-moment” chemistry experiment.

    The program was developed by Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania, and the Simons Foundation is providing support to extend the program nationally. This year over 7,000 students will participate.

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    Mathematical Association of America

    April 2014 - Present

    Organization that cultivates mathematical talent in students through math competitions and an intensive three-week summer program.

    The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) runs three competition programs: the American Invitational Mathematics Examination (AIME), the USA Mathematical Olympiad (USAMO), and the Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program. Six top students from these programs represent the U.S. at the International Mathematical Olympiad, and the MAA also fields teams for the Romanian Master of Mathematics and the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad.

    The MAA’s talent cultivation programs begin with the MAA American Mathematics Competitions, which build the problem-solving skills needed by today’s workforce and support the development of future intellectual and economic leaders. During the 2014‐15 academic year, approximately 350,000 students participated in the competitions, deepening their commitment to making mathematics part of their professional lives.

    More than 10,000 students participate in AIME each year, and up to 600 go on to participate in USAMO. The Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program brings together 50-60 young mathematicians for an intense three-week program designed to help them develop their potential, meet like-minded students from across the country, and broaden their understanding of the role mathematics plays in our society.

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  • Public Outreach Activities by MSRI

    Public Outreach Activities by MSRI

    September 2013 – August 2016

    Public engagement efforts by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, an organization that advances mathematical research and works to improve understanding of mathematics among the general public.

    The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) is one of the world’s preeminent centers for collaborative research in mathematics. Since 1982, MSRI’s topic-focused programs have brought together emerging and leading minds in mathematics, in an environment that promotes creativity and the interchange of ideas.

    Over 1,700 mathematical scientists spend time at MSRI’s headquarters in Berkeley, Calif., each year. MSRI is known around the world for the quality and reach of its programs and for its leadership in basic research, mathematics education and the public understanding of mathematics.

    MSRI reaches millions annually through its Public Understanding of Mathematics programs, which include sponsorship of the YouTube channel Numberphile, with more than 1.7 million subscribers; funding of films for public broadcast, such as Navajo Math Circles; and public events such as the National Math Festival.

    Youth resources range from early childhood through high school. Projects include the National Association of Math Circles, which provides after-school recreational activities; the Mathical Book Prize, highlighting children’s books that inspire a love of math through storytelling; the traveling SoundScape Sculptures by Guerilla Science; and math-art installations on university campuses.

    The public is invited to visit the More Math! section of the National Math Festival web site for games, puzzles, films, problem-solving sites, and other resources for all ages.

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  • NationalAcademySciencesAmbassadors

    National Academy of Sciences

    December 2014 - Present

    Program to bring scientific expertise to local decision-making processes by helping scientists and engineers become more engaged in their communities.

    The Science & Engineering Ambassadors program is a joint initiative of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering that aims to integrate scientists and engineers into local decision making for the benefit of their communities. The academies chose Pittsburgh as the pilot site for the project in 2012, with a focus on energy, because of southwestern Pennsylvania’s abundant energy resources and high-quality research.

    Currently, the program supports 30 science and engineering ambassadors from universities, federal labs, nonprofits and industry. It trains them to become effective communicators and, in contrast to many science communications efforts, also organizes ongoing engagements that give them the opportunity to connect with local decision makers.

    In July 2015, the mayor of Pittsburgh signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop advanced ‘micro-grid’ prototypes to transform the way electricity is produced and distributed in the resurgent Steel City. A catalyst for the agreement was the Grid Academy, a four-part series on modernizing the electrical grid that the Science & Engineering Ambassadors program organized with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a local, private-sector leadership organization. The program’s experts also serve as advisers to several energy-related projects in Pittsburgh.

    The Simons Foundation also supported the reprinting of the National Academy of Sciences’ Women’s Adventures in Science book series. Written for middle-school-aged girls, the series highlights exceptional women in science and their many accomplishments.

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  • nautilus

    Nautilus

    December 2014 - Present

    Science magazine that uses storytelling to foster a deep understanding of science and its relevance to the modern world.

    Nautilus is an online and print magazine that uses storytelling to bring science into the most important conversations of today. Each month, the magazine chooses a theme drawn from the sciences, culture and philosophy. Individual pieces explore the implications of new science, and the issue as a whole reveals surprising connections among different sciences and between science and culture. The articles are supplemented by illustrations, video interviews, graphic stories, photo essays and interactive games.

    In a popular-science media market that is largely short, fast and newsy, the editors of Nautilus believe people should care about science because it advances age-old questions and changes how we understand ourselves. This richer involvement of the audience requires a literary and nuanced presentation that gives its readers the credit they deserve. There has never been a greater need for the public to understand science: It is changing our world faster than any other single force and is increasingly relevant to global policy.

    Nautilus delivers the full depth and complexity of modern science to its readers with style and imagination, while challenging them to imagine how its stories relate to one another. This approach makes Nautilus a global brand for a new kind of literary science experience.

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    New York Hall of Science

    September 2015 - Present

    Initiative to develop a creative interdisciplinary approach to STEM learning that can be implemented in immigrant communities.

    The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) has launched an initiative called Queens 2020 to provide opportunities for young people, families and educators in the immigrant communities of Queens to engage in creative STEM learning. Co-designers of Queens 2020 include community and school leaders and stakeholders in the Queens neighborhood of Corona. NYSCI focuses on a strategy of engagement called Design-Make-Play (DMP), which stresses open-ended exploration and imaginative learning. There are strong analogies between science and children’s natural inclination to play, design and make things. These parallels hold great promise for strengthening interdisciplinary approaches to STEM in the classroom. The ultimate goal of Queens 2020 is to build a wide array of DMP resources and make Corona a hub for STEM education, so that more young people will pursue STEM careers.

    Forming deep partnerships with schools in NYSCI’s local communities is a critical part of Queens 2020. Similar immigrant communities exist throughout the U.S.; therefore, Queens 2020 could serve as a model for addressing the challenges that face these communities. Demonstrating the power of investing where there is both need and aspiration is a strategy that can be used to diversify the STEM workforce for generations to come.

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    Only Human

    December 2014 - Present

    Podcast on health and medicine that helps listeners achieve better health and an understanding of health-care issues.

    In October 2015, WNYC launched a podcast on health, Only Human, hosted by Mary Harris. Fusing personal stories, participatory projects and medical journalism, Only Human focuses on medical research and science, health-care economics, and healthy living. Only Human engages its listeners in the pursuit of better health for themselves, their families and their communities. The program partnered with Dan Ariely on a project known as Stick to It, which aimed to help people keep their exercise resolutions, and has featured the women’s health advocate Willie Parker on the show. Other segments have included an interview with Ezekiel Emanuel about the cost of health care, an analysis of the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx, and an exploration of the science of hearing and the habit of listening. Only Human asks experts and listeners alike big questions about how health affects our lives, teaching them about science and medicine along the way.

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  • PartnershipPublicService

    Partnership for Public Service Fellowship at the White House

    December 2015 - Present

    Project seeking greater representation of women and minorities in mainstream STEM entertainment media to promote more diversity in STEM fields.

    As part of the Civil Service Fellows program run by the Partnership for Public Service, the Simons Foundation supports Knatokie Ford in her role as senior policy adviser at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    Ford is a biomedical scientist and creative science communicator with a unique blend of experiences in science policy, basic research, secondary education and the entertainment industry. This background has fostered her distinctive skill set and perspective. She holds a doctorate in experimental pathology from Harvard University.

    Her “Image of STEM” project at the White House seeks to infuse mainstream entertainment media with diverse and compelling STEM images, stories and positive messages in order to promote greater diversity in STEM careers, in which women and minorities have been persistently underrepresented for decades.

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    Science Festival Alliance: Just Add Science

    December 2014 - Present

    Program that “meets people where they are” by bringing science to venues such as festivals and shopping malls.

    The Just Add Science program supports initiatives that bring science to settings where people aren’t expecting it. The initial focus of the program is on outreach led by established science festivals.

    Many science festivals have found success in offering science programming at cultural festivals, state and county fairs, major sporting events, powwows, busy shopping malls and Renaissance fairs. These efforts “meet people where they are” and connect with audience members who may never attend a science event of their own accord. By engaging people in the midst of their chosen pursuits, Just Add Science shows them how science is relevant to activities they already enjoy. Programming that is not overtly labeled as ‘science education’ can create open learning experiences for people with preconceived notions about science. It also offers science educators the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their audiences, leading to stronger community collaborations.

    Just Add Science launched in 2015, initially selecting nine science festivals to participate in the program. With the addition of three more festivals, a total of 12 science festivals will “meet people where they are” in 2016.

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    Science Friday

    December 2014 - December 2015

    Science radio program offering free STEM learning materials for parents and teachers, and an on-air science club to motivate listeners to “go out and do science.”

    Science Friday Initiative, the nonprofit producer of the radio program Science Friday, offers free STEM activities and resources for parents and educators who use Science Friday’s multimedia content as a springboard for engagement.

    Science Friday’s learning materials are especially valuable because they make STEM vocations more accessible by providing examples of scientists, mathematicians, engineers and inventors conducting research and solving problems. Science Friday covers a broad range of topics to inspire learners at different stages of development. Its audio segments, digital videos, articles and slideshows, paired with transcripts and listening guides, help educators convey critical STEM concepts to young learners.

    Another of Science Friday’s learning tools is Science Club. Launched in 2014, Science Club is an on-air invitation to go out and do science. Each challenge is carefully formulated to ensure that any level of participation — whether from an academic scientist, a kindergarten class, an industry researcher or an artist — can be celebrated. Through social media, participants share evidence of their explorations. Some past challenges have been to build a machine that makes art, to explain what the sun does, or to describe scientific phenomena. Thousands of people have showcased their work, and millions have seen the results.

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    Sciences at Pioneer Works

    July 2016 - Present

    A massive center for art and science in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that offers space for artists and scientists and presents a series of live science events for the general public.

    Pioneer Works is a center for art, experiment, research, education and science. Located in a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the facility houses artist studios, exhibition and performance spaces, a science lab, a recording studio, and more. The floor plan is open and flexible, encouraging a collaborative environment in which international artists, musicians, scientists and educators can create together.

    Pioneer Works encourages its artists and scientists to focus on their own disciplines and not feel pressured to cross over into others, although collaborations often erupt spontaneously. What the organization offers to all of its inhabitants is the opportunity to live in a bigger world and play the most important part they can play on that larger stage.

    With support from the Simons Foundation, Pioneer Works is rebuilding its science studios. It is also continuing its popular live science events, which are free and open to the public, and producing podcasts to disseminate its programs to a wider audience. In the later phases of its expansion, Pioneer Works will offer specially tailored scientific residencies and workshops and an incubator space. Pioneer Works hopes to become a model for the natural integration of science into a cultural organization.

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    SciStarter

    September 2015 - Present

    Online aggregator of citizen science projects that connects people to scientific projects they can contribute to in a meaningful way.

    SciStarter is an online citizen science hot spot. With support from the Simons Foundation, SciStarter is making its valuable ‘project finder’ feature and its database of citizen science projects available for communities, media partners and websites to duplicate on their own pages. SciStarter aggregates more than 1,100 citizen science projects on a single website in order to connect scientists and community leaders with anyone who wants to contribute to science. The Simons Foundation grant enabled SciStarter to create open, customizable software tools that anyone can use.

    A citizen science project can involve one person or millions of people collaborating toward a common goal. SciStarter already shares its database of projects with PBS Kids, the National Science Teachers Association, Serve.gov, Discover magazine and Astronomy magazine. The Simons Foundation grant made it possible for SciStarter to create ‘plug-and-play’ versions of the database to make it even more readily available to everyone. In addition, now everyone who adds a project to the SciStarter database will benefit from unlimited distribution outlets, reaching millions of potential participants.

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  • StemEcosystems

    STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative

    July 2015 - Present

    Initiative to develop innovative programs to improve STEM education both in school and outside the classroom.

    The STEM Learning Ecosystems initiative cultivates effective STEM learning opportunities for young people. The initiative is led by the STEM Funders Network, a diverse mix of more than 20 education-focused foundations that pool their resources to tackle projects they could not undertake alone.

    In 2015, the network selected 27 communities from across the United States for the initial cohort of a national community of practice to implement STEM Ecosystems, collaborative efforts to deliver rigorous STEM instruction from pre-K through college. The ecosystems are developed in schools and beyond the classroom — in after-school programs, at home, in science centers and in libraries. They spark young people’s engagement, develop their knowledge and nurture their sense of belonging in STEM disciplines. As the ecosystems evolve, students will be able to connect what they learn in school with real-world learning opportunities that can lead to STEM-related careers and opportunities.

    A second cohort will be selected in 2016. The ecosystems are supported by a technical assistance team led by the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM. The initiative is housed at STEM Next at the University of San Diego. The Simons Foundation collaborated with other funders in the STEM Funders Network to develop and support the initiative.

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  • STEMteachersNYC

    STEMteachersNYC

    December 2014 - Present

    Teacher-led organization that trains teachers, via development workshops, in a student-focused approach to STEM learning.

    STEMteachersNYC launched in 2011 to promote the teaching of STEM disciplines in New York City schools. With over 525 teacher-members, STEMteachersNYC presents monthly STEM-themed workshops and intensive summer workshops in a student-focused teaching method known as Modeling Instruction. However, there is a serious shortage of experts who can lead these workshops. STEMteachersNYC has formed a partnership with the American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA) to foster the spread of Modeling Instruction in the U.S. To address the shortage of experts, STEMteachersNYC is organizing two one-week Modeling Instruction leadership development workshops in summer 2016 for 30 participants who are implementing the approach in their classrooms.

    STEMteachersNYC and AMTA are also expanding their model to other locations throughout the country. They have established four pilot locations — Phoenix, Ariz.; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Bridgeport, Conn.; and southern Florida — with AMTA providing fiscal management and STEMteachersNYC providing operational advice. Support from the Simons Foundation provides subsidies for these projects on a matching basis to help defray startup costs. Each program is expected to present a series of workshops engaging significant numbers of local teachers.

    STEMteachersNYC is now transitioning to a staffed professional organizational structure with a focus on excellence in STEM teaching.

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    Strategic Education Research Partnership

    February 2015 - Present

    Project that enables teachers to collaborate in the process of developing effective science curriculum.

    The Simons Foundation is supporting the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) by offering teachers in New York and California the chance to collaborate directly with scientists and artists to design 24 units of study for middle school science students. This represents a rare opportunity for teachers to critique and improve curriculum prototypes. The units will focus on fascinating topics while promoting reasoning, discourse and scientific investigation among students who have had little or no science instruction in earlier grades. Proposed topics include thinking like a scientist, basic approaches to scientific investigation, and using units and measures in science.

    One goal of the project is to embed learning opportunities for teachers within the resource materials. Building on the success of a similar SERP math effort, these ‘teacher tune-ups’ will offer a refresher on the content teachers are about to present to students.

    SERP also uses animation, images and interactive materials to engage students. The project includes projectable and tablet-based teaching tools packaged in ways that have been found to be most convenient for teachers, allowing them to stay focused on their students rather than on the technology.

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  • TheConversation

    The Conversation

    December 2015 - Present

    Online news outlet, written by researchers and edited by journalists, that invites other media outlets to republish its content.

    The Conversation US is an independent source of informed commentary and analysis, delivered direct to the public from academic researchers. Started in Australia in 2011, this online news outlet has grown to become one of the largest independent news sites in that country.

    All articles are authored by scholars writing in their area of expertise. They work with The Conversation’s team of editors to ensure that their scholarship is accessible to the widest possible audience.

    With a commitment to the free flow of information, The Conversation publishes under a Creative Commons license and encourages other outlets to republish its content. Articles from The Conversation have been republished by The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Time, Quartz, Scientific American and many other news sources.

    The Simons Foundation supports two science editors who focus on commissioning academics from across the United States to write articles on a variety of topics relevant to the public interest, underpinned by scientific research. Disciplines covered will range from mathematics and physics to biology.

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  • PosseFoundation

    The Posse Foundation

    December 2014 - December 2015

    Program to help talented high school students from diverse backgrounds access higher education and assume leadership positions in the workforce.

    The Posse Foundation identifies urban public high school students with leadership potential and gives them access to excellent higher education. Since its formation in 1989, Posse has selected almost 7,000 students as Scholars, who are awarded full-tuition scholarships by top-tier colleges and universities. Scholars are admitted in multicultural teams of 10 students, who support one another on campus. Posse Scholars have a graduation rate of 90 percent, significantly higher than the national average, and are ready to assume leadership positions in the workforce. Posse’s ultimate goal is to create a leadership network that embodies the wide range of perspectives that characterize America’s diverse society.

    In 2006, Posse initiated its STEM Program, which provides access to higher education for students from underrepresented groups who intend to major in STEM fields. The U.S. is facing a critical shortage of STEM professionals; the STEM Program addresses this crisis by increasing the number of women and minorities majoring in STEM disciplines. Posse partners with 10 top-tier colleges and universities to admit 100 STEM Scholars each year with full-tuition scholarships. Despite the rigorous demands of these areas of study, STEM Scholars graduate at a rate of over 90 percent and distinguish themselves in their careers.

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    The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

    June 2015 - Present

    Graduate school offering competency-based master’s degree programs, with a focus on educating teachers and school leaders.

    The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has established a graduate school, the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, with the aim of reinventing teacher education. The academy will consist of a school of education and a research and development laboratory, the Buckley Teaching and Learning Lab.

    The graduate school will offer programs in teacher education and school leadership. It will initially focus on competency-based master’s degree programs in middle and secondary school STEM teacher education, with other fields to follow. School leadership programs will be added later, along with professional development programs and a licensing center for teachers and school leaders. The Buckley Teaching and Learning Lab will develop tools to advance teacher and school leader education.

    The academy will help transform teacher education and school leadership practices by publicizing its work and informing policymakers of its findings. The academy is intended as a model for teacher and school leader preparation programs around the nation and will work with college and university partners that wish to adopt its model. To facilitate this, the academy’s programs will be open-source.

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    Experiments in Science Storytelling

    December 2014 - Present

    Production of three films that present scientific research on diabetes in new and engaging ways for a general audience.

    Funding an experienced team of documentary filmmakers, the Simons Foundation is exploring how to use the vast array of video production tools to bring science to life in a way that highlights the wonders of discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. Films produced from the funding include an innovative look at the science of fat that uses animation and interviews to stitch together a surprising story, an examination of the discovery of insulin that contrasts the Hollywood version of the story with a more nuanced narrative arc, and an exploration of the diabetes crisis in India that follows a researcher who is using a long-term epidemiological study to gain insights into the disease.

    The films were vetted by scientists and produced to appeal to an audience with a wide range of backgrounds in science. The positive reception of the films challenges the conventional wisdom that creating content for a general audience requires stripping science of its sophistication. The goal now is to use these films to determine the market for science content so that producers and funders will come to see the worth of this approach to science storytelling.

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  • ScienceHealthEducationPartnership

    UCSF Science & Health Education Partnership

    December 2015 - Present

    Program to enable high school students to conduct scientific research on a college campus, with a goal of inspiring participants to attend college and pursue a degree in STEM.

    The High School Intern program (HIP), led by the Science & Health Education Partnership at the University of California, San Francisco, brings students who have just finished their junior year of high school to the university to conduct research and prepare for college. By participating in HIP, students become comfortable working in a laboratory, conduct experiments independently, learn to present scientific research, and begin to see the opportunities available to them in scientific fields.

    Unlike most high school research programs, HIP does not seek students who are already on track to enter top-tier universities. Instead, the program selects students who are interested in science but may not plan to attend college. The majority of HIP students come from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences, such as low-income or minority households. HIP makes a critical difference in the lives of these students: Studies of HIP alumni demonstrate that over 90 percent matriculate to college, 76 percent complete undergraduate degrees in the sciences, and 87 percent pursue graduate education. Each of these statistics significantly exceeds the national averages for students from similar backgrounds, and in recognition of these outcomes, HIP received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2011.

     

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    Wikipedia Year of Science 2016

    December 2015 - Present

    A yearlong initiative of the Wiki Education Foundation designed to improve Wikipedia’s potential for communicating accurate and digestible science to the public.

    The Wiki Education Foundation (Wiki Ed) supports college and university students in the United States and Canada who want to contribute quality content to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

    With support from the Simons Foundation, Wiki Ed launched the Wikipedia Year of Science 2016, an unprecedented targeted initiative designed to improve Wikipedia’s potential for communicating science to the public. The project connects higher education classrooms to the publishing power of Wikipedia. As students contribute information to Wikipedia, they improve the depth, diversity and quality of openly accessible science knowledge while gaining important media literacy, research, collaboration and science communication skills.

    Support from the Simons Foundation helps Wiki Ed reach new instructors by forming partnerships with academic associations. Simons Foundation support also enables Wiki Ed to develop teaching resources that inspire students to start making quality contributions right away.

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