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.

Adventure Science

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.

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.

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 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

MICRO Museums

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.

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.

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.

Nova: “The Mathematics of Prediction”

A PBS-Nova documentary exploring how we use math to model complex systems and make better predictions as a result.

Following in the footsteps of its popular program “The Great Math Mystery,” Nova will take viewers on a new mathematical odyssey in “The Mathematics of Prediction,” using graphics to bring numbers to life and exploring real-world examples that illustrate both the power and the challenges of mathematical analysis. Complexity and uncertainty are evident everywhere in the world around us, in natural systems like the weather and in human constructs like the economy. But scientists and mathematicians are constantly working to find meaningful patterns and build better predictive models using old methods like Bayesian probability and new ones like machine-learning algorithms.

Numbers are powerful, but they can also be confusing, and in this era of digital technology and ‘big data,’ it’s easy to feel as though we’re drowning in them. “The Mathematics of Prediction” aims to show Nova viewers “How Not to Be Wrong” (as mathematician Jordan Ellenberg put it in the title of his most recent book) by deploying the right math when we make predictions that materially affect our lives.


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.

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 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.

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.

Steeplechase Films: “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life”

From award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns, a biography of the beloved physician and writer, Oliver Sacks.

Steeplechase Films is an award-winning production company founded by Ric Burns in 1989. Over the past two decades, it has brought quality programming to public television and redefined the way audiences engage with American history. In “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,” Steeplechase tells the story of the extraordinary physician and writer.

On January 15, 2015, Oliver Sacks learned that he had only a few months to live. One month later, he sat down for a series of filmed interviews in his apartment in New York. Surrounded by family and friends, along with notebooks from six decades of thinking and writing about the brain, he talked about his life and work, his abiding sense of wonder at the natural world, and the place of human beings within it.

“Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” draws on these twilight reflections, as well as nearly two dozen deeply revealing interviews with friends, family members, colleagues and patients — including Jonathan Miller, Temple Grandin, Lawrence Weschler and Bill Hayes. The film is in part a biography, revealing a deeply empathetic and elusive expatriate Englishman. It is also an exploration of the science of human consciousness and a meditation on the deep and intimate relationships between art, science and storytelling.

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.

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.

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 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.

Jarred Phillips teaches about DNA replication in his classroom at Pemberton High School in Pemberton, N.J.
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.

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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