Who We Support

We support interdisciplinary projects that explore the intersection of science with art, music, design and more. We power programs that connect science to peoples’ existing interests and identities, with a focus on traditionally underrepresented communities. Programs we fund include informal education experiences, live science events, media productions and capacity building efforts. Below is a list of current and past projects funded by Science Sandbox.

Yellow rectangle that says 100K in 10 Answering the Nation's Call

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.

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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.

Mike and Lilliana Libecki in the Khumbu/Solukhumbu/Sagarmatha Zone in the Himalayas in Nepal
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 Forest and Amazon River
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.

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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.

Two boys hold oysters in both hands as they stand in water
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.

Seven people in business attire walking and talking together
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.

NYU logo on a gray background
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.

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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.

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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.

Two men talking next to posters
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.

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

Founded in 2000, DonorsChoose.org 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.

Compilation of science photos titled Elemental

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.

Photo of man leaning outside of a car with a videocamera, filming people on motorcycles. On top of the photo are the words Experiments in Science Storytelling
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.

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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.

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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.

Five-photo collage: confetti falling down on a happy crowd, a blindfolded man, people sitting at an exhibition booth, a woman with a sign up sheet, and people looking at fire
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Red rectangle that says Hypothesis with an orange question mark above the i

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.

Three girls laughing at a table as a balloon connected to a cup sits in front of them

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

Three women in goggles holding up foam polymer hands
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.

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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.

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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 andrewjs.com.

Mathematical Association of America (MAA) logo
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.

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Mouse Design League at Brooklyn College Community Partnership

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.

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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
NAS: National Academies Science Communication Colloquium

Multi-day event bringing together diverse researchers, practitioners and community leaders to learn from one another about science communication and engagement.

In the face of global challenges like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a changing climate and the societal impacts of emerging new technologies, the need for effective communication and engagement about science has never been more important.
To advance this effort, the Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is hosting Re-imagining Science Communication in the COVID Era and Beyond: The 5th National Academies Science Communication Colloquium on June 1, 2 and 6, 2022. The multi-day event will bring together diverse researchers and practitioners of science communication and engagement, as well as community members and leaders, to learn from one another. Plenary and interactive sessions will focus on building inclusive and equitable structures, evidence-based practices, and the science of science communication and engagement. Sessions will feature approaches from the global to the local levels.
The Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication brings together the diverse disciplines of science communication research and practice. Together, NAS works to engage all communities more effectively with science in ways that are equitable, evidence-based and inclusive.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

A kid holds up a cockroach with their mouth open
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center
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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Tinkering studio at the Exploratorium
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.

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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.

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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.

Logo for The Science & Entertainment Exchange: A program of the National Academy of Science
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.

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.

Mala Goankar David Byrne
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.

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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.

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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.

The letters SXSL (short for South by South Lawn) made of wood displayed on the White House South Lawn
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 logo (a brain) next to the Wikipedia Education Foundation logo
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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