Supported Projects

We support projects in many different areas across disparate platforms — including informal education experiences, live science events, film and other media productions, and awareness campaigns. Below is a list of current and past projects funded by Science Sandbox.


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.

To help eliminate these challenges, 100Kin10 has created a STEM fellowship, named the Y Combinator. 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. Current fellows are working on methods to help elementary school teachers teach STEM disciplines in ambitious, effective and inspiring new ways.

500 Women Scientists — Request a Woman in STEMM

Online platform built to shift the perception of what a scientist looks like by connecting members of the media, educators, and conference organizers to women and underrepresented scientists.

500 Women Scientists’ mission is to serve society by making science open, inclusive and accessible. One of their central programs is changing the face of science and shifting perceptions of what a scientist looks like. Tired of constantly seeing the same faces, mostly white men, representing science in the public sphere, 500 Women Scientists built the “Request a Woman Scientist” platform two years ago to provide opportunities for members of the media, scientific colleagues, conference organizers, educators and others to find and include more women and underrepresented identities. Since its launch, the platform has grown globally to include more than 12,000 individuals from over 140 countries and territories.

Adventure Scientists

Organization that pairs large science experiments with world explorers to gather data that would otherwise be nearly impossible to collect.

Adventure Scientists is a nonprofit organization based in Bozeman, Montana, that equips conservationists with data collected from the outdoors that are crucial to unlocking solutions to the world’s environmental challenges. By leveraging the skills of the outdoor adventure community, Adventure Scientists is uniquely able to gather data at any scale, in any environment.

Data collection can be expensive, time-consuming and physically demanding, which limits the role that science currently plays in the conservation process. Adventure Scientists tackles this problem by recruiting, training and managing individuals with strong outdoor skills — such as mountaineering, diving or whitewater kayaking — to bring back data from the far corners of the globe.

Adventure Scientists has sent thousands of volunteers on missions to collect data for its conservation partners. These excursions have led to the discovery of more than three dozen new species, provided information to guide decision making on climate change, and helped protect threatened wildlife habitats around the world.

Through their involvement with these projects, volunteers become ambassadors for the species they work with and the places they visit. By telling their stories and placing them in the rich tradition of outdoor adventure narrative, Adventure Scientists greatly magnifies its partners’ marketing efforts.

Amazon Adventure

An IMAX film, intended for a range of audiences, that tells the story of a journey through the Amazon rainforest, and of a young man who made important contributions to evolutionary biology.

Amazon Adventure is an IMAX film that tells the story of Henry Bates and his fascinating 11-year journey through the Amazon rainforest as a young man risking his life for science. As in any great detective story, audiences watch Bates unearth clues as he discovers ‘Batesian’ mimicry, whereby certain animals develop the look of others to deceive predators and prey. Although his findings are unknown to the general public, Bates made crucial contributions to evolutionary biology. While identifying 8,000 species new to science, he discovered the ‘beautiful proof’ for what is widely considered the best explanation of the development of life on Earth: natural selection. The film’s goal is to enhance the public’s understanding and acceptance of evolution through natural selection by telling an important human story of discovery.

With a team of over 100 advisers, the producers of Amazon Adventure have performed unparalleled research to bring this incredible story to life. The film is produced and distributed by SK Films, world leaders in the IMAX medium.

The film is accompanied by an educational outreach and research program managed by Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, including a live stage show, educational posters and a tablet-based game designed to evaluate what schoolchildren learned from the film.

American Society for Cell Biology

Public engagement grants for scientists seeking to bring their work to a bigger audience.

The Public Engagement Grants program provides funding, mentoring and project assessment to American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) members interested in engaging with their community and gaining experience in public outreach. At the core of the program are grants of up to $35,000 pay for materials and supplies, marketing, and salary for public engagement projects. The goal is to help scientists reach public audiences to build trust in scientists, and to enable scientists to undertake a significant pilot/case study so that they can qualify for funding from other sources to sustain and even expand their project. The program also supports scientists who may want to transition to a career in public engagement or increase the professionalism of their approach to engaging the public. ASCB provides mentoring and networking opportunities to scientists who want to expand their public engagement work.

Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia of the National Academy of Sciences

The third colloquium, held in 2017, focused on evidence-based strategies for science engagement.

The Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia on the Science of Science Communication began in 2012 with a survey of the state of empirical social science research in science communication. The second, held in 2013, highlighted the particular challenges of communicating about science on controversial topics and was the impetus for “Communicating Science Effectively: A Research Agenda,” a 2017 consensus study report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Evolving from the previous colloquia, the third colloquium, held in November 2017, focused on the consensus study report as a framework for advancing both research and practice in science communication. The colloquium explored ways to build capacity for and foster the use of evidence-based strategies for engaging the public with science and ensuring its appropriate use. Additionally, the third colloquium tackled the tough and often overlooked organizational and infrastructure changes needed to make research-based communication the norm. The colloquium provided a lively forum for researchers and practitioners to discuss how current research findings can be used most effectively in the practice of science communication.

Billion Oyster Project

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.

BioBus and BioBase

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.

Biodesign Challenge

Biodesign Challenge (BDC) is an international education program and competition that is shaping the first generation of biodesigners.

BDC partners high school and university students with scientists, artists and designers to envision, create and critique transformational applications in biotech. BDC’s goals are to create a community of collaboration among artists, designers and biologists; seed the first generation of biodesigners; and build meaningful public dialogue about biotech and its uses.

During the academic year, BDC’s staff works hand in hand with instructors to build curricula, give students a grounding in biotechnology and its current uses, and support the students as they embark on their own journeys within the world of biotechnology and biodesign.

For the 2020 cycle, BDC is working with Science Sandbox to provide travel awards to under-resourced schools to ensure that they can participate in our program and attend the BDC Summit. BDC is also offering the Science Sandbox Prize for Public Engagement to the participating team whose project best explores the multitude of impacts biotechnology can have on society. Teams competing for this prize will have special opportunities to present onstage at MoMA and Parsons.

Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics

Program for students in grades six to 12 that creates pathways for underserved students to study advanced mathematics.

The Simons Foundation supports Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM), an organization that enables low-income sixth- to 12th-graders to study advanced mathematics. Students attend intensive summer programs and have access to an advising program that helps them gain admission to top high schools, pass algebra in eighth grade and enroll in other enrichment programs. After 11th grade, they enter a summer ‘college prep’ program to prepare their college applications and study for the SAT. Through its work, BEAM gives students a realistic chance at the career of their dreams.

BEAM is unique in focusing on giving low-income students access to advanced material. STEM career professionals report having done extra coursework, summer programs and math contests growing up, but access to these extracurricular resources is deeply unequal. Only 3 percent of low-income eighth-graders score at the advanced level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, compared to 14 percent of affluent peers. BEAM has demonstrated that this inequality can be addressed by supporting low-income students who are ready for advanced work.

Funding from the Simons Foundation supports BEAM’s five-year growth phase, in which it will launch math enrichment for grades three to five in low-income neighborhoods in New York City as well as a number of pilot initiatives designed to reach more students.

California Academy of Sciences

The renowned Bay Area science museum brings citizen-science programming to after-school clubs across the country.

The California Academy of Sciences is a scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining and sustaining life on Earth. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium and natural history museum — all under one living roof.

Designed by the academy, the Science Action Club (SAC) is a nationwide out-of-school program for middle school youth that transforms STEM learning. Through games, projects and hands-on activities, SAC participants investigate nature, document their discoveries connect with scientists, and design strategies to protect our planet — all through the lens of citizen science. SAC features three environmental science units focused on bugs, birds and clouds. Each unit includes 12 hands-on activities and citizen-science investigations designed for 60-90-minute club sessions led by educators, as well as a teaching kit and resources for extended learning. SAC sessions are designed to spark wonder and curiosity about the natural world and provide opportunities for youth to participate in STEM learning that is interesting and meaningful to their lives. SAC’s citizen-science projects have global reach and established longevity, and they take youth outdoors to explore their local environment. For example, the Cloud Quest unit connects students to Globe Observer, a project by NASA in which youth observe the sky to help scientists understand the connection between clouds and climate change; Bird Scouts connects to eBird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; and Bug Safari leverages academy research on arthropods, using iNaturalist. SAC educator are trained and supported through SAC’s blended learning professional development program. Training provides detailed guidance and support for all SAC activities, as well as background information on scientific content, how to do citizen science, and best practices for teaching STEM in an informal learning environment.

California Council on Science and Technology

Fellowship program providing opportunities for scientists to work in the California state legislature, advising policymakers on complex issues in science and technology.

The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) was created to provide California with objective, nonpartisan advice on policy issues that involve science. CCST reports on some of the state’s most pressing issues in areas such as energy, the environment and education.

In 2009, CCST launched its Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program, which embeds scientists directly in the California state legislature. Each year, 10 scientists are awarded fellowships to work in committee and legislator offices in Sacramento. The goal of the program is to enable fellows to share their knowledge and skills with policymakers while also learning about the realities of translating science and technology concerns into a policy context. Fellows research issues, assess policies and draft laws based on the latest science. By serving in policymakers’ offices, they are able to bring their perspective and expertise to policy discussions at their earliest stages. In the process, they receive a matchless introduction to the world of policy. To date, fellows have worked on over 700 bills, and over 50 percent have been hired into permanent positions in the legislature and agencies to continue bringing science to policy.

Carter Institute of Journalism at New York University

University programs that train scientists and journalists to communicate science in creative ways that engage the general public.

Long a global leader in training science communicators, New York University has used its support from the Simons Foundation to expand several programs. NYU has updated its four-week science communication workshops for doctoral students, postdocs and medical students seeking to sharpen their mass communication skills and has developed workshops for senior faculty as well. NYU has also launched the Cooper Square Review, a web publication featuring science book reviews and essays.

The first of its kind, the Review is intended to encourage lay audiences worldwide to read great books that show how science works. Funding from the Simons Foundation also supports NYU’s globally renowned Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP), a master’s program now in its 35th year, whose alumni work for major media in 25 countries. More than 1,000 science communicators have completed SHERP and the science communication workshops, and Simons funds are enabling the two cohorts to collaborate in ways that reflect and anticipate shifts in communications technology. In addition, the Simons Visiting Science Journalist program brings top science journalists to campus to collaborate with both groups.


An event space in New York City featuring cutting-edge, topical science programming.

Caveat is an event space on the Lower East Side of New York City with the mission of fostering an environment for ‘intelligent night life.’ Science Sandbox supports some of Caveat’s science programming, including “What Is Life,” a live event hosted by New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer.

“What Is Life” tackles this fundamental question by engaging with experts across the spectrum of scientific expertise — from molecular biology to astronomy to philosophy. Over eight nights, Zimmer and his guests explore what the latest scientific research tells us about life.

Chickenshed NYC

Inclusive theater company whose community reflects the vast diversity of the broader population

As a company whose motto is “theatre changing lives,” Chickenshed NYC is committed to theater’s transformative power for individuals and communities. The Chickenshed model is unique in that it brings together members who represent the mosaic of cultures, ethnicities, identities and disabilities that make up our world. Its no-audition policy and inclusive methodology of working with children and youth ensures that each participant can be a successful member of a theatrical community, regardless of differing abilities or societal hurdles.

Chickenshed’s science-influenced artistic program includes immersive musical performances (Adventures from The Shed) for preschoolers (ages 2–5) and their families, and age-grouped theater classes (Chickenshed Players) for children and youth ages 5–18.

Adventures from The Shed leads children through a journey of puppetry, song and movement with elements of American Sign Language (ASL) incorporated into the shows. Children’s love of both the arts and sciences can begin at an early age, and this show exposes young children to basic scientific concepts through the lens of an immersive theatrical experience.

Professionally trained teaching artists guide and empower Chickenshed Players to gain confidence in music, movement and scripting as they hone their performing skills. Chickenshed theatrical programs demonstrate how art and science are not only compatible fields; they can and do enhance each other. Guest scientists help students understand such concepts as biological diversity, habitat, endangered species, astronomy, oceanography and climate change, revealing how theater can be a megaphone for science and how science informs the art that is created.

Chickenshed NYC programs inject STEM elements into its creative practice to create equitable opportunities and explore in more depth what it means to add the “A” to STEM and create STEAM.

Ciencia Puerto Rico

CienciaPuerto Rico is an organization that advocates for science in Puerto Rico and supports Puerto Rican researchers.

Their online community of more than 11,000 researchers, educators, students and allies work to show that science can empower people to improve their lives and society. In attempt to leverage public interest (as well as curb the spread of rampant misinformation), Ciencia Puerto Rico is working to develop “kits” for Puerto Rican communities to parse through information about the pandemic, as well as properly engage with news sources and information around COVID-19 and more. Ultimately, the hope is that this moment provides an onramp to continued engagement with science for Puerto Rico.

City University of New York: STEM Research Academy

A program for under resourced high school students in New York City to explore how to conduct research.

The STEM Research Academy is a keystone program in the Office of STEM Initiatives of the City University of New York (CUNY). The office is a division of the Office of K-16 Initiatives and is administered in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program. Focusing on access and equity, the STEM Research Academy enrolls high-performing, underserved New York City high school students. Participating students learn the significance of inquiry, self-advocacy, the societal impact of their mentor’s research and how to conduct research independently.

As a two-semester program, the STEM Research Academy consists of a spring pre-college science course and a summer research experience, designed to provide students with an opportunity to build essential literacy and numeracy skills by engaging in ‘authentic inquiry’ activities. The spring pre-college course strengthens basic skills such as formulating researchable questions, designing testable experiments, performing literature searches in library databases, and reading scientific literature including peer-reviewed journal articles. Students attend the course on a college campus after school or on Saturdays. Upon successful completion of the spring course, students may enroll in a structured six-week internship program with CUNY research faculty.

The program recruits from high schools that lack a strong science research program and serve large, low-income, underrepresented and minority populations. Juniors are selected to participate based primarily on Regents exam scores, their GPA, submission of a general-interest essay, and review of their high school transcript.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Urban Barcode Project

A science education initiative to engage high school students in studies of biodiversity in New York City.

The Urban Barcode Project (UBP) is a science education initiative that engages New York City high school students in the study of biodiversity using DNA. ‘DNA barcodes’ are short DNA sequences that can be used to objectively identify almost any plant, animal or fungal species. DNA barcoding can be mastered quickly and applied to many different questions, allowing students to reach a satisfying research endpoint within an academic year. Students can undertake individual projects to explore product mislabeling or contribute to distributed efforts to explore a local ecosystem, museum collection or conservation issue. These projects stimulate independent thinking across different levels of biological organization, linking molecular genetics to ecology and evolution.

UBP is one of several efforts by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center to promote original research by high school students. To participate, students are required to complete two courses: Conservation Genetics and DNA Barcoding and Bioinformatics. Students who complete both courses are invited to apply at the beginning of the school year, and 40 students are selected to participate in teams of two students matched with scientist mentors. Mentors guide the students through all phases of the research process, from project design and culminating in poster and oral presentations at a research symposium. Students gain knowledge, confidence and interest in science while studying the interaction of biodiversity and human well-being.

Design to Disrupt

New initiative developed by education-focused entrepreneurs connects lifelong learners and educators of all ages to provide education-based programs, products and services.

The Design to Disrupt (D2D) and Reimagine Education initiative began during the U.S. lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic as an inclusive space for K-12 education stakeholders to provide information, and contribute to, the future of education. Since the group’s establishment, D2D roundtables have served as an entry point for essential conversations about race, racism and the digital divide. Central to these dialogues are the many intersections of one’s identity and social-emotional awareness.

These conversations, known as the Edupreneur Roundtable, are run by community and organizational leaders, and engage a wide community, inclusive and intersectional regarding gender and ethnic diversity, to impact the progress of civic engagement through education. Together they leverage social capital, as a method to provide education-focused entrepreneurs an on ramp into EDTECH and the education service marketplace. By sharing tangible tools, steps and strategies to address the needs of modern education, the roundtable disrupts the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education marketplace to serve as an entry point that reimagines where, when and how learning happens.
With intention, D2D disrupts and re-envisions a path that advances equity through the development of future-minded educational environments.


Crowdsourcing platform providing opportunities for people to fund classroom projects across the U.S.

Founded in 2000, makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need. Teachers at over 60 percent of U.S. public schools have created project requests, and more than 2 million people have donated a combined $428 million to projects that inspire them. Over 18 million students — most of them from low-income communities, and many of them in disaster-stricken areas — have received books, art supplies, field trip funding, technology and other resources that they need to learn.

In 2016, the Simons Foundation and Math for America supported Best School Day, a massive crowdsourcing campaign to raise funds for classroom projects across the country.

Later in 2016, the Simons Foundation supported Science Everywhere, in collaboration with the Overdeck Family Foundation. Through this program, public school teachers across the U.S. are invited to submit ideas for engaging hands-on math and science projects to be pursued outside of class time. Qualifying projects receive matching donations from the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Simons Foundation, and the five most innovative ideas, as determined by a panel of judges, each receive a $5,000 prize.


ELEMENTAL: Atomic Tales & Periodic Fables is a playful collection of short documentary films from around the globe, each one exploring our lives through the lens of a different element from the periodic table.

These diverse individual films combine to create an engaging experience about our relationships with the elements while celebrating the art and craft of documentary filmmaking.

The stories of the elements are intimately connected to our own. Our bodies are made up of elements, our survival depends on them, and they are all that surrounds us. From our daily routines to the patterns of our economies, they affect us in countless ways, yet they often remain invisible. They are the untold stories behind our physical existence.

ELEMENTAL allows creative freedom to award-winning directors and upcoming talent from around the world. Each filmmaker tells a human story about the way one element is used in a five- to 15-minute film directed in their unique voice and style. There are as many stories about how the elements touch our lives as there are creative ways to portray them, and the collection will feature films ranging from personal to political, artsy to animated, and investigative to contemplative.

The goal is to provide a timely, thought-provoking and creative exploration of the unique properties and chemistry of the elements that drive our modern world, motivated by the alarming rate at which we are using many of them up.


Community-focused program that provides extraordinary opportunities for under-recognized and underrepresented youth

Created by Dr. Whitney Gaskins and the Gaskins Foundation, EPICC STEMulate gives youth resources at many stages of their academic careers, as well as their creative lives. Comprehensive programs are offered to help develop and foster skill sets needed to accomplish a brighter future. The program’s mission is to present, engage and prepare students of all ages to become leaders in STEM using algebra, programming and design concepts.

Empowering Parents in Community Churches (EPICC) STEMulation is designed to transform church meeting spaces into a STEM learning environment. The goal of EPICC STEMulation is to equip church leaders and parents from underrepresented backgrounds with the tools to deliver STEM content contextualized to the lived experiences of those who attend the partner churches. Black churches have traditionally served as places for creating individual, systemic and political change within their communities. Churches utilize their position in the community to train and support those in the most need. As a result, Black churches are ideally situated to offer a new place of STEM learning for the communities they serve.

The organization started as the brainchild of Dr. Whitney Gaskins, 2009’s Miss Black Ohio USA. As Miss Black Ohio, Whitney chose as her platform to increase STEM education for underrepresented youth in our communities. After her tenure, she began conducting STEM workshops throughout the state of Ohio. In 2013, she officially chartered the Gaskins Foundation.

Experiments in Science Storytelling

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.


An affordable foldable microscope developed by a company that seeks to make ‘frugal science’ tools widely available.

Foldscope Instruments develops low-cost tools for scientific exploration, with the goal of shattering the financial barrier that prevents many people from engaging with science. Founded in 2016, the company builds on the work of Manu Prakash’s lab at Stanford University, where the Foldscope was first invented and shared with a global community, and where other ‘frugal science’ tools are currently being designed and tested.

The company’s flagship product, the Foldscope, is a foldable microscope made mostly from paper. The materials used to make it cost less than $1. The Foldscope’s durability and low cost make it a powerful tool for education, medical diagnostics and field work and an alternative to large, pricey scientific instruments. It pairs with cell phones, using images and videos to provide an incredible tool for people to directly engage in scientific endeavors driven by local context anywhere in the world.

Foldscope Instruments hopes to distribute 1 million Foldscopes by the end of 2017 and aims, through an online social platform, to create a worldwide scientific community dedicated to exploration, open sharing and equality of access.


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.

Guerilla Science

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.

Harlem Gallery of Science

Contributing to a sustainable ecosystem that gives folks in under-resourced communities new opportunities to explore educational and career pathways into STEAM fields

Growth in well-paying jobs in STEAM is unparalleled, yet Black and Latine youth and women are severely underrepresented in these fields. Two senior faculty of the City University of New York, Stan Altman and Brian Schwartz, wanted to understand why, despite significant work in this area, there has been little progress in diversifying these fields.

Modeled on the successful approach employed by Trinity College’s Science Gallery Dublin and its offshoot Science Gallery International, Science and Arts Engagement New York, Inc. (SAENY), a not-for-profit, established and created the Harlem Gallery of Science (HGS) to address the unique needs of 11- to 24-year-olds growing up in inner city neighborhoods of New York City.

Pursuing STEAM educational and career pathways is challenging for these youth, who all too often attend under-resourced schools, have limited afterschool resources to support them in exploring these fields, and see few role models who look like them in positions of achievement in STEAM fields.

The HGS has demonstrated that its approach is effective and engaging its target population through its interactive STEAM exhibitions on basketball and music, and programs inspiring youth to imagine their future possibilities. Two of these programs are its successful peer-mentoring program with the National Society of Black Physicists, which pairs college students of color with middle- and high school students in West Harlem; and a digital game-design initiative involving the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, City College and Urban Arts Partnership to prepare Black and Latinx youth for careers in the growing video-gaming and creative arts industries in New York City.

To house its exhibits and programs, SAENY is raising funds for a permanent home for the gallery to serve as a convening place for students, community members, college faculty, business and civic leaders, as well as tourists.

Hidden Nature SF

Shedding light on what a pre-urbanized San Francisco would have looked like to foster ideas to ensure livability and health for the city moving forward.

Hidden Nature SF is a public science project to discover San Francisco as it existed before the city, revealing both the city’s historical ecology and the hidden nature still woven through its neighborhoods.

Bringing innovative, place-based scientific research into the public realm, the project draws together hundreds of early historical maps, photographs, traveler’s diaries and other rarely used archival sources to shed light on how generations of San Franciscans have altered the city’s landscapes and ecosystems over time — from the marshes along its shoreline to its iconic hills and dunes. Clues from these sources are uncovered and synthesized, providing an immersive entry point for nonscientists to explore San Francisco’s ecological past and future while catalyzing a new and transformative perspective on nature in the city.

With a range of high- to low-tech tools, Hidden Nature SF engages the public with scientifically rigorous information. Interactive maps reach a broad audience, while ecological detective “office hours,” walking excursions and other events draw residents into the science of changing landscapes. Hidden Nature SF inspires varied audiences to learn to read the landscape and tell compelling stories about the places they now inhabit. Ultimately, the project will contribute creative ideas to the active reshaping of San Francisco to foster livability, resilience and health for the city’s natural and human communities.

Hidden Nature SF is a collaboration between the San Francisco Estuary Institute, the Exploratorium, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Presidio Trust.


Providing underserved students in New York City with hands-on science education and mentorship experiences, including after-school and summer school programs.

HYPOTHEkids (Hk) provides underserved students with hands-on educational and mentorship experiences in science and engineering. To increase the representation of women and minorities in STEM fields, Hk offers enrichment programs for students in elementary school and high school. Through a collaboration with Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, a partnership with Harlem Biospace, and strong working relationships with local public schools, Hk has created a new education model to prepare students for jobs in the high-tech economy.

At the elementary school level, Hk offers programs taught by engineers and scientists. Hk’s after-school program addresses the math achievement gap in West Harlem public schools. Hk Summer STEAM curbs summer learning loss common among students from low-income settings.

The Hk Maker Lab provides high school students with a foundation in bioengineering and entrepreneurship through team-based design projects and life science internships. Hk also offers professional development for teachers and supports the implementation of the Hk curriculum in high schools.

Hk developed HYPOTHEkits to allow the Hk elementary curriculum to be used for informal science learning. Each HYPOTHEkit contains all the materials needed to complete a project illustrating a scientific concept. The Hk initiative STEAM the Streets will distribute HYPOTHEkits at street fairs, festivals and community events across New York City.


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.

Imagine Science

A collaborative program that implements informal, out-of-school STEM learning for youth in high-need communities across the country.

Solving the STEM crisis is too complex a challenge for any one organization—school, cultural institution, or community-based center— to tackle alone. In response to this need, four of the nation’s largest and most experienced youth development organizations came together in 2015 to launch Imagine Science, an initiative that harnesses and unites the distinct expertise and resources of each organization: YMCA of the USA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Girls Inc., and the National 4-H Council.

Imagine Science combines the national resources of these four collaborative partners and jointly implements high-quality informal STEM learning during out-of-school time with underrepresented youth in high-need communities around the nation. The initiative follows a common standard of ‘essential program elements’ rooted in evidence-based STEM and out-of-school youth development practices.

Imagine Science (I/S) is the first-ever jointly operated national effort to design and implement high-quality, out-of-school STEM programming for underserved youth. Together, the four partners reach 18 million young people annually in every U.S. state and territory. Their combined assets include more than 110,000 program sites, over 75,000 full-time employees, and 1 million volunteers dedicated to reaching youth.

Following three successful pilot-site launches, Imagine Science is now focused on expanding its national scaling efforts. With philanthropic support from the Simons Foundation, Imagine Science aims to build capacity through additional sites and create a STEM resource repository for broader distribution of quality STEM curricula and activities.

Imagine Science Films

Organization that pairs scientists and filmmakers to tell stories of current research through innovative artistic techniques.

Imagine Science Films (ISF) promotes a high-level dialogue between scientists and filmmakers. The Symbiosis competition pairs active scientists with diverse filmmakers, who create short films on condensed production schedules during Imagine Science film festivals.

Since 2014, Symbiosis competitions at New York, Paris and Abu Dhabi festivals have showcased the power of concentrated exchanges between working scientists and filmmakers. ISF structures the program with an eye towards facilitating this exchange and the emergence of new forms of science cinema.

Symbiosis films serve not only to capture specific aspects of current research but also to embrace an artistic quality with an emphasis on innovative storytelling. Participating filmmakers with a wide range of interest and expertise in areas such as animation, commercial, documentary, experimental, fiction and virtual reality, music video) provide their own sensibility and filmic influences to these science film projects. Working scientists contribute by sharing personal stories of their research and facilitating access to research spaces.

Scientist-filmmaker pairs work closely with ISF team members and festival alumni, who serve as mentors. By working directly with mentors and being part of all discussions before, during and after the creative process, scientists gain an appreciation for the full power of sharing science through the filmic lens. It is said that people fully integrate new knowledge when they explain it to another. Through filmmaking, scientists complete the process of learning and integrating their area of scientific inquiry by teaching it to others. For their part, filmmakers learn how to document and create narratives about the scientific research process and humanize science.

Inclusive SciComm Symposium

A biennial international convening of practitioners, trainers, researchers, educators, funders and others who work across diverse disciplines to prioritize inclusion, equity and intersectionality in all forms of science communication

Metcalf Institute is a University of Rhode Island program that supports an international network of science communicators through the biennial Inclusive SciComm Symposium. The symposium and broader inclusive science communication (ISC) movement aim to shift science communication toward a new paradigm grounded in inclusion, equity and intersectionality, and to dismantle the exclusive legacies and structures of science.

In 2021, Metcalf launched the inaugural Inclusive SciComm (ISC) Community Cohort, sponsored by Science Sandbox. This initiative seeks to be in solidarity and community with those who are on the ground floor of advancing and realizing equity: community-engagement practitioners. Through the cohort experience, Metcalf highlights community-developed knowledge, alignment and action, and identifies ways to welcome and support these on-the-ground community leaders by amplifying their contributions, providing an opportunity for community engagement practitioners to connect with one another and the ISC movement, and highlighting the knowledge, strategies and lessons of community-engagement practitioners, activists and organizers.

Metcalf Institute provides education, training and resources, with a focus on equity and inclusion, to journalists, scientists and science communicators across career stages, with the aim of engaging diverse public audiences in evidence-based conversations about science and the environment. Its goal is to ensure that all perspectives are valued in the process of identifying and solving environmental challenges. Since 1999, the Metcalf Institute’s proven training model has had a significant multiplier effect, helping millions of news consumers worldwide access accurate, contextual environmental news coverage that connects science and environmental justice and sparks essential conversations about these complex issues.


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.

Joe’s Big Idea

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.

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

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

In the summer of 2016 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 primates infected with SIV, the simian form of HIV, to learn how the disease affects the nervous system.

This level of work is customary for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty researchers at Hopkins — but Caitlin, Muriel and Benjamin are still teenagers. They’re among the seven high school juniors and seniors who spent six weeks in the summer of 2016 immersed in scientific research in faculty labs, participating in 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 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.

Junior Achievement STEM Summit

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 provided support to extend the program nationally.

Letters to a Pre-Scientist

Pen-pal program that connects students in under-resourced schools with STEM professional mentors for a snail-mail letter exchange during science class.

Letters to a Pre-Scientist (LPS) pairs students in U.S. under-resourced communities with a worldwide network of STEM professionals for a yearlong pen-pal program during science class. Pairs explore STEM careers, higher education journeys, and overcoming obstacles. LPS aims to broaden students’ awareness of what STEM professionals look like and do at work.

Talent and potential are equally distributed in society, but opportunity is not, and students cannot aspire to careers they don’t know exist. Science has never been more important, and society needs all types of people and perspectives to solve the challenging problems of today and tomorrow.

LPS’s mission is to facilitate one-on-one connections between students and STEM professionals in order to demystify STEM career pathways, humanize STEM professionals, and inspire all students to explore a future in STEM.

During the 2021–2022 school year, LPS works with 20 teachers and 850 students in five states.

Lewis Latimer House — Tinker Lab Summer Programs

A weeklong summer camp offering hands-on STEAM education for underprivileged youth in Queens, NY.

The Tinker Lab Summer Camp at Lewis Latimer House Museum offers no-cost, hands-on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education to underprivileged youth through a partnership with the Latimer Gardens Community Center — a New York City Housing Authority residence named after the African American inventor.

Each summer camp session features an in-depth weeklong project introducing students to coding, robotics,engineering and art. Parents and guardians are invited to attend a culminating showcase, where campers proudly present their finished projects.

Lewis Latimer House Museum is a New York City landmark, and the historic house of the African American inventor, humanist and son of fugitive slaves, Lewis Howard Latimer. Among his numerous inventions, Latimer invented a method of producing carbon filaments that made the production of light bulbs both practical and affordable for the average household. He worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the patent for the telephone in 1876, and was one of the original 28 Edison Pioneers. The Museum calls attention to Latimer's and other people of color's contributions to technology and American life through multilingual tours, permanent and special exhibitions, literature series, community events and Tinker Lab STEAM educational programs. Latimer’s life story is used as a point of departure from which to examine issues of race, class, immigration and contemporary events.

Liminal Creations

Strategy and coaching firm focused on science communication and sensemaking

Founded in the summer of 2020 by Liz Neeley, Liminal Creations is a strategy and consulting firm focused on science communication, especially in moments of transition.

2022 will be the inaugural year for the Liminal Fellowship, one of Liminal’s first flagship programs. The fellowship is committed to making up to five unrestricted gifts of $5,000 each to diverse, talented individuals working in research, communication and the expressive arts who share the goal of engaging audiences in “deeper than usual” cognitive processing about important issues in science, technology and nature. The fellowship has a cohort-based structure aimed at creating community and organic peer-mentoring, with Fellows gaining valuable access to four mentors selected for their expertise in their individual fields. Fellows will also experience many professional development opportunities that will inspire bigger ambitions, greater confidence and a more strategic vision when it comes to science engagement.

Los Angeles Performance Practice

Devoted to the production and presentation of contemporary performance by artists whose work advances and challenges multidisciplinary artistic practices

THE STARS (We Won't Be Here Anymore ...)The Stars is a new time-based light and sound installation for one person, or one small group of people, at a time, developed by Andrew Schneider. The Stars' unseen narrator guides each attendee through their own individual journey of a precisely programmed installation. More than 8,000 individually reactive points of light and a 327-channel sound system envelop each audience member. The Stars invites viewers to become active experiencers, as they explore the traces of themselves in light, the universe and those who have been here before us.

Andrew Schneider is an OBIE award–winning, Drama Desk–nominated performer, writer and interactive-electronics artist creating original works for theater, dance, sound, video and installation since 2003. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Schneider creates and performs original performance works, and builds interactive electronic art works and installations. Rooted at the intersection of performance and technology, Schneider’s work asserts that the phenomenological impact of art is no different from any other category of lived experience.

Los Angeles Performance Practice: “After”

A live performance exploring human perception and consciousness.

“After” is a live performance about experiences no human being has ever come back to report on — a show about possible afterlives and consciousness transfer. Using hyper-precise design and new breakthroughs in sound spatialization, it explores deep levels of human perception in an attempt to induce collective hallucination.

Creator Andrew Schneider is working closely with the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) to replicate the design and construction of a new sound technology system, Wave Field Synthesis (WFS). “After” will be the first theatrical production to use EMPAC’s design of WFS.

Andrew Schneider is an Obie award-winning, Drama Desk-nominated performer, writer and interactive-electronics artist based in Brooklyn, New York, who has created original works for theater, video and installation since 2003. For more on Schneider’s work, visit

Mathematical Association of America

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.

MAX 2021: The Neuroverse

An international convening of artists, scientists, influencers and machines.

MAX 2021: The Neuroverse, a live arts festival will engage questions about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and the emergence of diverse intelligences. Take a roller coaster ride through newly discovered territories, from the creative minds of humpback whales to the black box of machine learning. The Neuroverse will open up new vistas and expose deep ravines in the exponential changes to our lives brought on by science and technology. Explore questions of consciousness, machine learning, humanness and decision-making with artists, neuroscientists, engineers and technologists who break boundaries and challenge assumptions. Examine the intersection of neuroscience and artificial intelligence, sparking dialogue across disciplinary boundaries about this revolution in the human-machine collaboration and its impact on our lives and our role in the universe.


A series of six-foot-tall science museums that offer the joy of discovery in unexpected places — from hospital waiting rooms to the DMV.

Micro introduces people to fundamental scientific principles in the places where they least expect it.

Founded in 2016 by computational ecologist Amanda Schochet and producer Charles Philipp, Micro brings together designers, scientists, storytellers and artists to squeeze the best parts of museums into boxes that can go anywhere.

Traditional brick-and-mortar museums make visitors come to them. Micro is a distributed museum. Its fleet of six-foot-tall science museums finds people where they already are, from hospital waiting rooms to the DMV, and connects communities by fostering a common conversation around science.

Micro’s fleet introduces viewers to the core sciences, with a museum on a new topic released every six months. Its first museum, the Smallest Mollusk Museum, debuted in 2016 and is about to be released around New York City. It uses 15 exhibits, five screens, eight sculptures, three optical illusions, a giant hologram and a liter of slime to tell a story about natural selection and environmental systems spanning millions of years.

MIT Museum: Science in Vivo

Science in Vivo “meets people where they are” by bringing science to unexpected venues.

The Science in Vivo project fosters the integration of science into settings where people are not expecting it. The overall goals of the project are to inspire experimentation with — and advance the understanding of — such work. Over the course of three years the project will support teams at 24 sites that bring science experiences to “where the people are.” Nine of these sites will host an observational visit from other science engagement professionals, enabling them to better understand the dynamics at work in these settings. The project incorporates several mechanisms for sharing findings, including the annual Science Events Summit.

The MIT Museum engages the wider community with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s science, technology and other areas of scholarship in ways that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

Mouse Design League at Brooklyn College Community Partnership

Mouse is a national nonprofit organization that empowers all youth and educators to engage with computer science and creative technology to solve real problems and make meaningful change in our world.

Mouse designs computer science and STEM curricula on our online learning platform, trains K–12 educators, and engages students through its Design League and maker events.

Mouse Design League is a design and technology after-school program in which high school students create inventions to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Design League members develop creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills, and build confidence in designing technology with purpose. Over the course of the Design League program, our youth use human-centered design to brainstorm, prototype and present assistive technology and projects designed to improve the lives of others. Design League is comprised of high school students with diverse interests and backgrounds, who gain applied design, technology, workplace and leadership experience.

Museum of Science Boston: SubSpace Series on Anti-Racism

Against a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic’s racially disparate effects and world-wide protests against racial injustice, the Museum of Science is taking a hard, inward look at how science and museums have contributed to systemic racism in the United States.

Through this series, the Museum will leverage its power, privilege and platform to amplify the Black voices, research, actions, movements and policies that are leading the charge against racism — both locally and nationally. In collaboration with Black leaders and organizations, this series tackles historic racism in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It highlights the work of Black scientists both historically and presently, and shares the stories of Black luminaries, public figures and everyday citizens to examine racism through a social-science lens in order to help actively re-shape the racial discourse in our country. The audience is challenged to open their eyes, engage and teach themselves how to actively build an anti-racist society.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Citizen Science Study

A study by the National Academies’ Board on Science Education to investigate how citizen science can support learning.

The Board on Science Education (BOSE) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine focuses on science learning and education for all, investigating the effectiveness of schools, federal education programs and self-directed learning. Its reports influence federal legislation, provide guidance to federal agencies involved in STEM education, and shape funding priorities.

The Simons Foundation is supporting a new BOSE study investigating how citizen science projects can support science learning. While such projects are becoming immensely popular, research that focuses on the science learning aspect of these projects is just now emerging. This study will identify evidence-based principles to guide the design of citizen science projects that have science learning as a goal.

An expert committee will examine research related to science learning and citizen science, plan a two-day public workshop, and develop a consensus report. The report will discuss the potential of citizen science to support science learning, identify programs that exemplify the most promising practices, and lay out a research agenda to improve our understanding of how citizen science supports science learning. Committee members will include experts in citizen science programming, research and evaluation of citizen science projects, K-12 science education, informal science education, and after-school science programming.

National Academy of Sciences

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.

The program trains science and engineering ambassadors from universities, federal labs, nonprofits and industry. It enables them to become effective communicators and, in contrast to many science communications efforts, 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-age girls, the series highlights exceptional women in science and their many accomplishments.


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.

NEW INC Creative Experiments Track

An art/design incubator that brings scientific research into mainstream dialogue, translating complex issues for the general public.

The Creative Experiments Track at NEW INC, the New Museum’s art/design/technology incubator, supports ideation and prototyping of new applications for science through the lens of art and culture. Creative practitioners who are exploring artificial intelligence, robotics, biotech, digital manufacturing and other science-based areas of research through their practice are supported for a 12-month period, with a bespoke development program that leverages the tools of entrepreneurship to help realize their ideas and maximize potential for impact and sustainability.

Practitioners gain access to NEW INC’s shared workspace, hands-on support from NEW INC staff and external mentors, participation in the NEW INC community, and a robust roster of professional development programs and events — including opportunities for networking with the Science Sandbox community and collaboration with MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative. A focus within Creative Experiments is to increase public engagement with science. Through diverse art and design projects, members of this Track bring scientific research into mainstream dialogue, translating complex issues for the general public, and making visible ways that these projects leverage emerging technology, scientific thinking, and creative problem-solving. Projects include innovative approaches to materials and green infrastructure, artworks that engage space, geography and physical senses in surprising ways, and research that interrupts conventional scientific narratives.

New York Hall of Science

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

The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) received a five-year grant from the Simons Foundation to launch Queens 20/20, a multifaceted initiative to provide creative STEM educational opportunities for young people and families in Corona, Queens, a neighborhood that is home to many Latino immigrant families. This population represents the largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the country, but it is vastly underrepresented in science and technology disciplines. Support from the foundation will fund the Science Ambassadors program, which forms the centerpiece of Queens 20/20.

The program will enable NYSCI to make educational resources, exhibits and programs available to students and families in the school district throughout the academic year. Over the next five years, working in partnership with a network of schools in the community, NYSCI will offer programs — based on its signature Design-Make-Play approach to STEM learning — that support out-of-school STEM opportunities and parental engagement. NYSCI will also provide career resources and conduct evaluation and research. The museum’s goal is to serve as a neighborhood hub, offering a much-needed resource for children and their families, teachers, and other members of the community. NYSCI hopes that Queens 20/20 will serve as a model for other organizations and communities serving immigrant families across the country.


Hugely popular YouTube series featuring ‘numbers people’ discussing unorthodox, cutting-edge or recreational topics in mathematics.

Numberphile is a series of films on YouTube dedicated to mathematics and to people with a passion for numbers.

Video journalist Brady Haran collaborates with mathematicians and other experts from around the world, creating videos that range in length from two to 20 minutes. Topics range from the profound to the quirky, and from cutting-edge research to recreational puzzles.

Recent films have included interviews with world-class mathematicians and other math professionals. But the series also features memorable set pieces, including one film in which the first 1 million digits of pi were printed on a mile-long piece of paper, which was then unfurled on an airport runway.

Numberphile is aimed at viewers of all ages and levels of expertise. It has become one of the most popular ‘edutainment’ channels on YouTube, with more than 2 million subscribers and over 250 million views.

Only Human

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.

Partnership for Public Service Fellowship at the White House

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.


Direct-to-viewer miniseries revealing the hidden, microscopic organisms living across New York City — and how they interact with the rest of us on a day-to-day basis.

"Pondlife" is a three-part miniseries that goes on safari into a microbial wilderness. Through the use of cutting-edge cameras and high-powered microscopes, a detailed view into the microscopic world that exists all around us emerges. Dr. Sally Warring travels around New York City to explore microbial communities that inhabit city ponds and mossy rocks, meeting the ubiquitous inhabitants magnified up to 400 times. "Pondlife" introduces microbes and microbiology for a general audience. It’s a microscopic adventure into the great unseen.

The majority of life-forms on our planet are microscopic and unicellular — meaning the entire organism consists of only one cell and is too small to be seen with the naked eye. These unicellular organisms, the microbes, inhabit the soil, air and water all around us. Some even reside within our own bodies. In the smallest drop of water, you can find them going about myriad microscopic dramas: building homes, hunting prey and looking for love.

Public Outreach Activities by MSRI

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.


Award-winning science radio program that employs high-quality storytelling and sound to engage audiences.

Radiolab is a two-time Peabody Award-winning national public radio program that celebrates curiosity and nurtures engagement with science in millions of listeners nationwide and around the world. Co-hosted by executive producer and MacArthur ‘genius’ Jad Abumrad and veteran science journalist Robert Krulwich, Radiolab approaches broad and diverse topics across science from the ground up.

Radiolab’s non-didactic treatment of science — in which the hosts exhibit curiosity and wonder and ask questions — makes challenging science concepts accessible and encourages a feeling of emotional investment and a sense of discovery within its listeners. By positioning science as a living process — one that requires a range of approaches, an ability to grapple with unknowns, and a willingness to experiment — Radiolab’s hosts draw listeners into stimulating, powerful conversations about science, scientific inquiry, and the scientific process. The program makes scientists out of laypeople as they venture into Radiolab-guided explorations that emphasize a feeling of personal connection through a highly crafted use of sound and story.

To foster public engagement with science and scientific inquiry, Radiolab produces and distributes a selection of science programming to national and international audiences via multiple platforms including original digital podcasts, a weekly hourlong radio broadcast, science communication lectures and live events, and the cultivation and promotion of new Radiolab talent. After over a decade of production, Radiolab is broadcast on 596 public radio stations across the country and averages 3.4 million monthly podcast listeners.

Rockaway Waterfront Alliance

A paid internship for students who conduct research under the mentorship of environmental scientists.

Rockaway Waterfront Alliance’s Environmentor is a science research mentoring program for high school sophomores and juniors. Environmentors participate in an intensive paid environmental science internship in the spring and summer, conducting original research under the mentorship of field scientists from the City University of New York, Hofstra University, the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, and other institutions. Students research complex issues that affect the Rockaways’ urban waters, particularly Jamaica Bay, and present their research in the community and at the American Museum of Natural History. Past interns have conducted research on salt marsh restoration, eel identification using environmental DNA, and microplastics in oysters.

Through their participation in the program, students develop science research skills while enjoying the unique experience of conducting field research in their own communities. Students learn about local ecology and environmental justice issues and become familiar with data collection, scientific equipment, crafting research projects, formulating questions based on raw data and observations, and reading, writing and presenting on scientific topics. Students also participate in leadership training and summer activities including surfing, kayaking and swimming.

Rockefeller University: RockEDU Conference

This ‘unconference’ will bring together leaders in science communication to discuss the expanding field of science outreach.

In October 2018, representatives of science outreach communities from across the nation will gather at Rockefeller University for an ‘unconference’ to discuss and workshop multiple aspects related to the expanding field of science outreach. This event will be hosted by RockEDU Science Outreach, in collaboration with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Engaging public audiences in STEM promotes scientific literacy and establishes scientific research as a relevant human endeavor. Many STEM professionals and institutions support and participate in science outreach as a means to achieve these goals, and to more genuinely connect science with all members of our society. Traditional models of science outreach centered on activities that scientists performed on the side, if time allowed. However, in more recent times, science outreach is often an essential component of research programs, requiring significant effort that have clearly measurable impact.

We are at an inflection point as the value -- and necessity -- of science outreach becomes fully realized both in terms of societal impact and as a means to gain broad support for scientific research, through funding, policy or other relevant avenues. As the field of science outreach grows, it is important that the infrastructure to support its professional community grow with it. This ‘unconference’ aims to provide attendees with the opportunity to engage with others who are involved in science outreach efforts, and to help streamline science outreach as a process.

Rocking the Boat

Rocking the Boat brings positive impact to the high-need youth of the South Bronx by using activities centered on small boats and local waters as unique vehicles for teaching foundational STEM skills and valuable youth development lessons.

The organization engages high school students in three challenging and dynamic program tracks: wooden boatbuilding, sailing and environmental science. All three deliver hands-on technical education to a population often lacking access to both extra-curricular activities and to STEM-related studies and careers. The Environmental Science Program in particular makes science relevant and fun by grounding lessons in exploration of the participants’ neighborhood river, the Bronx River, and giving them an important role in its restoration. Through hands-muddying activities in student-built boats, the Environmental Science Program nurtures a budding interest in the biodiversity of the Bronx River and trains students in the tools and methods used in environmental research. Students then use those skills to take part in research and restoration projects that partner with local, state and national organizations. In one of a slate of ongoing projects, the students are helping the New York City Audubon Society and the U.S. Forest Service monitor the region’s wading bird population; performing multisite water-quality testing and microplastics research in conjunction with the Bronx River Alliance; managing the Bronx River oyster reef with the Billion Oyster Project; and contributing to the upkeep of a New York City Department of Parks and Recreation restored wetland. Environmental Science Program participants are proud that the data they collect on water quality, oyster growth and bird activity is shared with our distinguished partners and is personally presented to their neighbors at public events.

Science Festival Alliance: Just Add Science

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 was 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 achieved the goal of “meeting people where they are” in 2016.

Science Friday

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.

Science Gallery Atlanta

The Science Gallery Network consists of leading universities united around a singular mission: to ignite creativity and discovery where science and art collide.

HOOKED explores the complex world of addiction and recovery. Artists, scientists and healthcare professionals will consider how we manage our emotions and how external forces affect our choices and decisions. Examining addiction as a fundamental risk of being human, HOOKED argues it is a global health issue rather than a moral failing. It explores the multiple forms that humans — regardless of age, class, gender or ethnicity — are vulnerable to addiction and asks how we might need to reshape society to address this grave concern. Amidst the backdrop of the criminalization of drugs and the addictive nature of new technology and social media, HOOKED also asks visitors to challenge stigmas and explore how recovery can take many forms.

Science Gallery Detroit

Part of a university network dedicated to public engagement with science and art, Science Gallery Detroit combines emerging research and ideas from the worlds of art, science, design and technology to unlock the creative potential of young people.

The mission of Science Gallery is to act as a collider of art and science, and to engage 15–25 year olds in connective, participative and surprising ways by combining emerging research and ideas from the worlds of art, science, design and technology. Science Gallery is the world’s only university network dedicated to public engagement with science and art. Science Gallery Detroit is the only member of the Science Gallery International Network in the Americas.

Science Gallery unlocks the creative potential of young people, providing opportunities for young people to develop skills for today's and tomorrow’s jobs, create fertile ground for entrepreneurship and innovation, and discover new connections and inspiration for young people around the globe.

Science Sandbox @ New Lab

A fellowship at Brooklyn’s New Lab designed to develop new projects that connect science, technology and research to society.

Science Sandbox @ New Lab is a hybrid residency/incubator fellowship program housed at New Lab, a sprawling, multidisciplinary center for advanced technology located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The program enables scientists, researchers, technologists, journalists, artists and other creative innovators to work on unexpected and transformative projects that further the Science Sandbox mission to unlock scientific thinking in all people.

The fellowship provides space, resources and a community for nurturing, building and remixing inspired projects that build connections between emerging research and society.

Fellows spend three months working on projects in New Lab’s state-of-the-art space and product realization labs. As members of the invited ‘beta class,’ the inaugural Science Sandbox @ New Lab fellows will actively help shape the new program.

Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc. — STEM Journal Club

National nonprofit organization established on the premise that exposure to the STEM community is critical to K-12 students pursuing STEM careers.

Founded in 2005 by Tokiwa T. Smith in Atlanta, SEM Link has as its mission to strengthen the self-efficacy of K-12 students to pursue STEM careers by exposing them to positive adult role models from the STEM community that increase students’ awareness of STEM careers and encourage their participation in STEM Research through digital learning and hands-on activities. SEM Link has a two-core program model, Experimental Design Program, and Math and Science Career Academy, in which more than 500 STEM professionals have exposed over 15,000 youth to over 50 different STEM career paths, and also supported hundreds of young STEM research trainees.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Journal Club, a program of SEM Link’s Experimental Design Program, aims to develop STEM literacy skills in metro Atlanta high school students from ethnic and racial communities with historically low participation in high-level STEM research competitions. Participants engage in scholarly research; read and analyze STEM literature; and gain exposure to relevant concepts to spark their interest in STEM Research. The journal club curriculum is a “hybrid” journal club model focused on teaching students how to critically, read, dissect, analyze, evaluate and discuss research articles while incorporating social media and small group discussions. The journal club also trains students on communicating STEM topics to diverse audiences with the creation of a podcast episode based on a STEM journal article as the students’ final project for the journal club.

Sciences at Pioneer Works

A massive cultural center dedicated to experimentation, education and production across disciplines, housed in a converted warehouse in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.

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.


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,, 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.

Stem From Dance

Two- week programs, for girls to create a collection of technology-infused dances, to inspire them to consider joining the STEM workforce.

STEM From Dance (SFD) envisions a world in which Black and Latina women are represented equitably in the STEM workforce. To this end, SFD empowers underrepresented minority girls to prepare for a STEM education that excites them — through the creative and confidence-building aspects of dance.

Black and Latina women comprise 15% of the American population but occupy only 4% of the STEM workforce. The STEM workforce features some of our country’s most high-impact and lucrative jobs, but women of color are deterred from entering STEM fields due to lack of confidence, readiness, and awareness. SFD breaks down each of these barriers using dance as a “hook” and an environment where girls of color can grow their STEM skill set and sense of possibility that STEM can be an option for their futures. Over the past six years, SFD has impacted the STEM awareness, ability and confidence of over 400 participants across a variety of school and community sites.

In partnership with Science Sandbox, SFD piloted a summer program in July 2018 to reach girls from schools across NYC in our target population, creating an opportunity to serve more students and further the mission of preparing girls for a future in STEM. Over two weeks, girls create a collection of technology-infused dances that awe and inspire, while learning about computer science, electrical engineering, choreography and how they all work together.

STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative

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 was 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.


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 organized 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 have expanded their model to other locations throughout the country. They 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 provided subsidies for these projects on a matching basis to help defray startup costs.

In 2016, STEMteachersNYC transitioned to a staffed professional organizational structure with a focus on excellence in STEM teaching.

Strategic Education Research Partnership

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

With support from the Simons Foundation, the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) offers 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. The units focus on fascinating topics while promoting reasoning, discourse and scientific investigation among students who have had little or no science instruction in earlier grades. Topics have included 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’ 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.

Sundance Institute: Science Sandbox Nonfiction Project

A documentary film initiative designed to foster and support independent science storytelling.

Led by Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, the Science Sandbox Nonfiction Project is a partnership that offers grants, engagement events and other opportunities for independent artists seeking to explore the intrinsic link between science and culture through innovative storytelling. The partnership identifies and supports nonfiction projects that communicate science to general audiences in meaningful ways. Emphasis is placed on film and media projects that incorporate creative narrative techniques and highlight diversity in science, especially those that feature characters, topics or disciplines that broaden or redefine what it means to be a scientist or to do science.

Techbridge Girls

Tackling the issue of inclusivity in STEM by providing best-in-class, hands-on programming to girls from low-income communities.

Techbridge Girls excites, educates and equips girls from low-income communities to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers and to attain economic mobility and better life chances. Today, many girls are locked out of STEM and have to work twice as hard to get half as far. Overwhelming odds are stacked against them: They live in low-income communities, go to high-poverty schools and experience bias due to their race, class and ethnicity. Techbridge Girls aims to level the playing field and empower girls from low-income communities to achieve upward mobility and financial stability.

The ChangeMakersTM program uses research-based practices and rigorous evaluation to create a year-long program with an engaging curriculum to introduce middle-school girls to a wide array of STEM skills and concepts via "hands-on, minds-on" activities. Girls then use their STEM skills to create original Community Impact Projects. Community-centered Showcase events are held at the end of each program year to celebrate girls’ Community Impact Projects with families, teachers and supporters. Examples of past projects include an app that addresses Islamophobia with profiles of Muslim people in the local community as well as highlighting the similarities between Islam and other religions, and a backpack with sensors and LED lights to increase safety for girls who walk home. ChangeMakers also integrates role-model visits from STEM professionals and field trips to STEM employers and the girls' families.

Texas A&M: ETx STEAM

Pilot project aimed at stimulating interest in STEAM among students in under-resourced communities in Texas via “worldbuilding.”

Texas A&M University’s ETx STEAM project, facilitated by the university’s Institute for Applied Creativity and Department of Visualization, aims to stimulate the interest of middle school-aged under-represented minorities to engage with science, math and computing through exploring digital worldbuilding. This pilot project exists within a multi-pronged, collective effort involving public and private partners, all focused on the ultimate goal: empowering youth with greater confidence in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) skills.

Students are guided by “Near Peer Mentors,” undergraduates and graduate students at Texas A&M and Prairie View A&M Universities who will take part in coursework at their respective institutions focused on developing cultural awareness, technical knowledge and mentoring skills required to be successful as mentors to middle school students.

The Conversation

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 range from mathematics and physics to biology.

The Explainer Program at the New York Botanical Garden

High school and college-aged students become expert facilitators, leading the next generation of science enthusiasts.

The Children’s Education Program at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) offers a wide range of structured, programmatic experiences for schoolchildren, educators and families. NYBG staff make use of the institution’s one-of-a-kind learning facilities and its 250-acre campus to stimulate visitors’ interest in plant science and ecology and to enable them to experience the excitement of scientific discovery.

The Explainer Program — an integral part of the Children’s Education Program — is an innovative internship program for urban teens and a prime example of NYBG’s commitment to nature-based science learning. Founded in 1998, the program trains high school and college students to become expert facilitators in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden (ECAG), leading hands-on, inquiry-based educational activities for visiting children, families and school groups. For many of the students, the program is also their first professional experience.

The Explainer Program improves participants’ understanding of scientific concepts through hands-on, inquiry-based lessons; cultivates their understanding and stewardship of the natural world; and enhances their communication skills and self-confidence. Through professional development in science pedagogy and citizen science field experiences, Explainers become expert facilitators in ECAG. They lead educational activities that encourage children and family visitors to think and act like scientists as they learn plant science and ecology concepts.

The program’s tiered structure provides opportunities for advancement and increased responsibility, motivating the students to stay with the program and grow professionally. Explainers are promoted to more expansive leadership roles as they develop expertise in teaching methodologies and demonstrate a commitment to the program. The possibility of clearly attainable advancement provides an incentive for Explainers to work toward becoming mentors and eventually toward assisting with the development and day-to-day operations of the program.

The Exploratorium

A massive learning space in San Francisco, offering revolutionary ‘tinkering’ studios and engaging outdoor exhibits.

The Exploratorium is a public learning laboratory that enables visitors to explore the world through science, art and human perception. The Exploratorium’s vision is a world where people think for themselves and can confidently ask questions, question answers and understand the world around them. Here, artists, scientists, educators, and designers work alongside one another to envision new ideas and directions for learning about the natural world. Their common goal: to support a culture of experimentation and collaboration, inspire curiosity and understanding, and stimulate fresh ideas and directions.

The Exploratorium Studio for Public Spaces (SPS) transforms public spaces into culturally productive places to learn about natural phenomena and human behavior. Working at the intersection of architecture, urbanism, art and education, SPS creates beautiful and engaging outdoor exhibits and environments that encourage the public to ask questions, make discoveries and test those discoveries. By designing and building spaces where people can pause, observe, experiment and explore the science of natural and social phenomena in everyday life, SPS is creating a new type of social and educational urban space, a public platform for the integration of STEM education into the fabric of urban life and reaching people who don’t think science or science museums are for them.

The Exploratorium was an early pioneer of ‘tinkering’ (also known as ‘making’) as a uniquely engaging approach to STEM learning. Tinkering at the Exploratorium is a carefully but loosely structured process in which scientific concepts and phenomena are positioned as the tools for learners to realize their creative goals.

The Open Notebook

Tools and resources to help science, environmental, and health journalists at all levels of experience to sharpen their skills.

The Open Notebook provides in-depth articles and other tools to help science journalists improve their skills. They support and encourage high-quality science journalism that has the power to engage wide audiences.

The Diverse Voices program comprises a series of feature-length articles that examine the experiences and perspectives of minority science journalists, who are significantly underrepresented in the science journalism community. Lack of diversity in science journalism is a problem not only for science journalism as a profession but also for readers — and thus for public understanding of science. The people who tell science stories influence whose stories get told (or left untold) and, therefore, how accurately the reading public perceives the scientific enterprise and the opportunities within science for people from diverse communities. What’s more, a science media landscape that is not diverse is missing opportunities for engaging communities of readers who may be interested in science and its role in society.

Diverse Voices, a partnership with the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) Diversity Committee, will bring greater visibility to journalists from underrepresented groups and to scientific and journalistic issues of special relevance to minority communities.

The Diverse Voices program is an extension of The Open Notebook’s broader mission to strengthen science journalism by helping science writers sharpen their craft.

The Posse Foundation

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.

The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art’s annual Brainwave program series engages visitors through onstage conversations and immersive experiences that combine the most compelling advancements in science with traditional Himalayan wisdom.

With its globally renowned collection, largely centered around the Tibetan plateau, the Rubin Museum in NYC fosters understanding and appreciation of this region by relating its art and ideas to our shared human experience today. Inspired by the philosophical traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism and aligned with ongoing research into learning, behavior and the brain, the Rubin offers innovative programs that examine provocative ideas across the arts and explore the mind.

In 2020, Brainwave is focusing on the connections between the Buddhist concept of impermanence — or the fact that everything changes — and cutting-edge research in neuroplasticity. In particular: How can motivation, stress, trauma or bliss transform the brain? Is artificial intelligence dehumanizing us? And how can we reconcile our anxieties about dying? By exploring these questions and more, the series investigates how the brain has shaped us as a human race and how it could reshape our future.

The NAS Science & Entertainment Exchange Retreat

A weekend-long retreat for scientists and filmmakers, featuring an exchange of ideas and the beginnings of potential partnerships.

The NAS Science & Entertainment Exchange hosts a yearly retreat in Woods Hole, MA. Featuring scientists and filmmakers from across the globe, the weekend-long event includes presentations, film screenings and invaluable networking opportunities.

The Science & Entertainment Exchange (The Exchange) is a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that connects entertainment industry professionals with top scientists and engineers to create a synergy between accurate science and engaging story lines in both film and TV programming. From a quick fact check to a special briefing, The Exchange provides quick and easy access to experts from all the scientific discipline.

The Story Collider

A live event and podcast series that encourages scientists to engage with the public through powerful, personal science storytelling.

The Story Collider is a science storytelling show dedicated to the idea that true personal stories are a powerful tool for science engagement. Its founders believe that everybody has a story about science, because now, more than ever, science is a part of everyone’s life. Since 2010, the Story Collider has showcased those personal stories in its many live shows and in its weekly podcast. The organization also teaches science storytelling workshops.

At the Story Collider, the audience hears from scientists about all the times things went wrong in their labs, but the show also presents stories from people who haven’t had a formal connection to science since high school. Storytellers have included physicists, comedians, neuroscientists, writers, actors and doctors.

The Story Collider presents its flagship show monthly in New York City and also hosts shows in Boston, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the U.S. and in the U.K. Its podcast is available on SoundCloud, iTunes and the NPR One app and passed 5 million downloads in 2016.

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

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.

Theater of the Mind

An immersive installation by the Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and writer Mala Gaonkar is a journey inside the human brain.

“Theater of the Mind” is an immersive 15,000-square-foot installation, co-created by Talking Heads frontman and artist David Byrne and writer Mala Gaonkar, that takes its audience on a sensory journey through the human brain. Small audiences — only 16 at a time — are led through a complex participatory experience of narrative storytelling. Sensory experiments, developed in consultation with neuroscientists, are conducted in real time.

UCSF Science & Health Education Partnership

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.

Universal Hip Hop Museum

Anchored in the Bronx, the birthplace of the culture, the museum provides a space for audiences, artists and technology to converge, creating unparalleled educational and entertainment experiences around hip-hop culture of the past, present and future.

Hip-hop culture possesses a unique ability to connect with people, providing the means to reach across entrenched barriers to introduce concepts and ideas to broad audiences. The artistic elements of sound, movement, art and knowledge create common ground. In the Universal Hip Hop Museum, exhibits, installations and salons intended to be visceral audiovisual, VR and AI experiences will reveal the hidden codes of scientific and technological innovations built into the fabric of hip-hop culture. The Universal Hip Hop Museum and the lab of Dr. Stephon Alexander are creating Hip Hop Science, a phased partnership with the Simons Foundation in the real and digital worlds leveraging our unique abilities to empower young people and demonstrate that scientific inquiry and innovation is intrinsic to the various dimensions of hip-hop culture. The creators of hip-hop were not merely consumers of technology but visionaries of technology, with scientific and futuristic imaginations that are now part of our STEM ecosystem.

Hip Hop Science will bring a series of experiential exhibits, installations, salons and lectures aimed to transform the public’s perception and shine new light on the myriad ways science, technology and hip-hop are integrated. Hip Hop Science will also engage youth through consistent programming, lectures and projects, giving them the opportunity to be the next architects of scientific inquiry, innovation in the spirit of their predecessors — a Hip Hop Science Academy.

Hip Hop Science will be a hands-on interactive exploration of the key elements of the living science in hip-hop, meeting our intended audiences on terrain that is familiar and welcoming. Hip Hop Science will uniquely address a local and national issue concerning youth of color in STEM, understanding the importance for students to interact with and see scientists from their shared background.

Wave Hill Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship Program

A paid internship program that allows students to conduct fieldwork that improves the environment through ecological restoration.

The Woodland Ecology Research Mentorship (WERM) program is a 14-month internship (July through August of the following year) focused on urban ecology that pairs 10-12 high school students with working scientists. The program targets economically diverse communities that have a demonstrated need for science enrichment programming. WERM utilizes Wave Hill’s woodland as a living laboratory and provides paid internships for students to engage in fieldwork and academic coursework. These internships promote personal and career growth as students improve the environment through ecological restoration. This internship is often their introduction to scientific research and practical work experience. Students receive a stipend based on hours of participation and performance.

WERM interns take two academic courses: “Restoration of NYC’s Natural Areas” and “Mapping NYC’s Urban Environment: An Intro to GIS.” “Restoration of NYC Natural Areas.” The course goals are: learning the science of ecological restoration; enhancing data literacy; developing technical skills; and understanding the role of public policy; and land management. “Mapping NYC’s Urban Environment: An Intro to GIS” offers students an introduction to cartography and the use of geographic information systems, a technology designed to store, analyze, manage and present geographical data. Both courses were created by Wave Hill’s Educators with experts in the field and enable interns to earn college credits.

Interns are assigned to a site in Wave Hill’s woodland to collect data and perform ecological restoration. Working in groups, students are assigned a scientist mentor who helps them develop a substantial research project that demonstrates their ability to conduct high-level research and communicate scientific findings. Projects have included “Habitat Use and Activity Patterns of NYC’s Urban Wildlife” and “New York Botanical Garden Forest Damage Assessment.”

White House Frontiers Conference

Inspired by an issue of Wired magazine edited by President Obama, the conference focused on new frontiers of innovation and how the U.S. can build capacity in science and technology.

In October 2016, President Obama went to Pittsburgh to host the Frontiers Conference — his final major event focused on the topics of science, technology and innovation. The one-day conference covered a wide range of topics including precision medicine, brain science, artificial intelligence, smart cities, advanced manufacturing, climate change and space exploration.

The conference included five discussion tracks, a plenary session and an expo open to the public featuring science exhibits related to the five tracks. The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University communities participated in the event along with other regional partners; additional invitees included prominent national and international figures from industry, academia, government and the nonprofit sector.

White House South by South Lawn Festival

A festival that took place on the South Lawn of the White House, bringing together artists, scientists and tech visionaries for a daylong exchange of ideas.

In 2016, President Obama issued a call for action — an invitation for artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists and musicians to come to the South Lawn of the White House for a daylong festival of ideas. Inspired by the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, South by South Lawn asked some of the leading visionaries of our time to share their methods for engaging communities and effecting change.

The festival included a conversation on the role of entrepreneurs in building companies and organizations focused on solving critical challenges, a panel on population increase and what that means for food sustainability, and several exhibitions on topics ranging from virtual reality to coding.

The event also featured a discussion between President Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist, on the bright spots and challenges of the effort to protect the planet from climate change. A screening of DiCaprio’s documentary “Before the Flood” followed the discussion.

Wikipedia Year of Science

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.

In 2016, with support from the Simons Foundation, Wiki Ed launched the Wikipedia Year of Science, 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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