SfT Families Reconnect with the Natural World

On May 23rd, 2015, Scientists for Tomorrow had over 120 students, instructors and parents attend the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. For many participants this was the first time they visited the nature museum which is located on 2430 N. Cannon Drive in Chicago.

The day was filled with diverse activities, encouraging SfT families to reconnect with the natural world. Participants observed and learned about the life of the butterflies and moths at the Butterfly Haven. Later, they sketched in detail a live Darkling Beetle and a Box Turtle. Participants further learned about animals and their behaviors in the Ethogram exhibit.

As the day continued students and their parents joined together to engage in the “Nature  Scavenger Hunt” and the “Habitat Explorers” activities, both providing them a chance to explore the beautiful park outside by the North Pond.   They also learned about how canals work in the “Water and You” exhibit, where they were able to manipulate water flow in miniature towns and dams.

David Bild, the Peggy NoteBaert Nature Museum Coordinator for Teen and Young Adult programs led the Native Plant workshop in which he talked about the history of plants native to Illinois. At the end of the workshop David gave all of the participants seeds and plants, giving them a little bit of nature to take home with them.

For the closing session, families had a lot to take away from this exciting event, granted with the occasion to view nature in a new and appreciative way.

For more information about the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum you can visit them at http://www.naturemuseum.org

STEAM Conference 2015: Reflections From Parents and Instructors

More than 1,000 participants attended Scientists for Tomorrow 5th Annual STEAM Conference at Northeastern University of Illinois campus on May 2, 2015. During the conference, more than 200 high school and middle school students taught science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics  hands-on workshops to their peers.

However, this conference wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement and participation of parents and instructors. Here’s a reflection of what their children and students are taking home after the conference.

“When I said there’s a conference where your children are going to be able to build something by themselves they said ‘We’re going and we’re also taking our families’. The process of having received training, talking with my own experience, communicating that voice and now having these families here it’s a total success. My hope is that the parents that aren’t as engaged will get engaged. It’s not just working on homework at home, they [parents] should also discover there are new horizons for them,” said 60-year-old Maricruz Guardado, Morton- 201 District Parents Program Coordinator.

“The teachers at Volta were very interested in bringing their students here, including the science olympians, just to see the whole conference and what’s going on because they’re interested in engineering, science and all the good things that STEAM provides. They wanted if it’s possible to actually be presenters next year. After this, they [students] will have a lot of exposure to the whole STEAM conference. They [students] have never had anyone take them to something like this,” said 27-year-old, Nahla Yafai, Volta Elementary School STEAM conference trip organizer.

“What I like about the program is that it gets kids interested on science and it gives them an insight that they don’t usually see in the classroom. It’s really inspiring for them as well as for myself. Usually in classrooms for experiments we don’t have enough supplies and materials so we don’t get to dwell deeper into what science is. But with the STEAM conference and with Scientists for Tomorrow we give them a lot of background and they get to see things they wouldn’t normally see in their science classroom. They look at science in a different light,” said Geri Catto, Duke Ellington and Ella Flygg Young instructor.

“I learned about the STEAM conference through Scientists for Tomorrow and I invited my kids and their families to come. The kids have been loving being taught by their peers. The main thing that the students are taking away are both creativity involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and also that there’s a whole community of people their age that are engaged in these types of projects. How fun can that be to get together with people their own age who are also interested in science and do creative problem solving on their own. It’s teaching them that they too can teach their peers and their friends about science,” said 26-year-old, Katie Spero, SfT instructor at Ravenswood Elementary School.

“We, as parents, have the opportunity to learn and develop as leaders and motivate other parents to participate for the good of our children’s education. As a presenter I take home the satisfaction of how so many parents were attentive while we were explaining the projects. They have the capacity, all the parents have the capacity of learning. We [parents] sometimes say ‘I can’t do this’ ,but it’s so simple. If all parents knew about it it would be another part of our children’s education. The parents’ involvement  is the best because it’s the base of our children’s education. Before I thought it was more complex, but it’s a game, science is game based,” said 46-year-old, Josefina Chavez, STEAM conference presenter and member of Frida Kahlo Community Organization Parents Program.

5th Annual STEAM Conference: Where Students Become Instructors

Over 1000 participants attended the 5th Annual STEAM Conference at Northeastern University of Illinois on May 2nd, 2015.

Five years ago, Marcelo Caplan, Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor of the Science and Mathematics Department and Co-founder of Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT), and Aaron Cortes, TRIO Upward Bound Math & Science (UBMS) Director, had an idea. “Why don’t we get our teens to teach other teens?” they thought.

This idea was the catalyst for the first STEAM Conference, a conference where students have the opportunity to teach other students the value of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics through hands on activities.

After months of preparation, more than 200 presenters from various middle and high schools in Chicago represented their educational institutions and organizations by teaching more than 30 hands-on workshops to middle and high school students and parents.

The conference, a result of the partnership between Columbia College Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University, also held two bilingual parent workshops where parents taught other parents the basics of open and close circuits as well as an introduction to the computer field.

Bus after bus, students, parents and instructors packed the auditorium where Marcelo Caplan, SfT co-founder, Evelyn Oropeza, SfT program coordinator, and Aaron Cortes, UBMS director, presided the opening ceremony.

As the opening ceremony progressed, Marcelo Caplan emphasized the importance of events of this nature. “We want to be part of this new model of citizens,” Caplan, 52 said.  “The citizens that understand that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are important and we need to integrate it also with the arts.”  

Science spread through the auditorium as soon as Caplan put his goggles on! Lava flowed from test tubes, water disappeared from a cup after adding a secret ingredient and ultraviolet LED torches lighted up the room.  The audience cheered and clapped as each experiment took shape, but this was only the beginning of a day full of learning.

After the opening ceremony, participants received a program catalogue where they could choose between more than 30 activities to participate in. The opportunities were endless! Some ran to the robotics competition, while others couldn’t wait to build their own monochord, multi color LED, solar USB charger or blast off rocket.

Sixteen-year-old Whitney Young High School student, Noami Guerrero, presented an energy workshop where students built a solar USB charger by studying the laws of electricity and the importance of non-renewable resources. “That presentation was nothing like what I normally do at school,” Guerrero said. “I normally just stand there and say information, and nobody is listening, but here people come voluntarily. It’s just more fun for the presenter and the audience if they are both interested in what they are talking about.” Apart from interacting with an engaged audience, Guerrero believes the conference exposes students to different forms of science and shows them how to apply it in the real world. Guerrero plans to continue studying science after high school and is already looking for in-state physics or electronics college programs.

Duke Ellington and Ella Flygg Young instructor, Geri Catto, brought her students to the conference for them to experience science from a different angle. “They get to see things that they wouldn’t normally see in their science classroom,” Catto said. For her it’s inspiring to see her students present and participate in a different role where they teach other students what they have learned in their SfT after school program.

While her kids participated in the student workshops, Josefina Chavez, Frida Kahlo Community Organization parent, taught other parents an activity called the “Magic Brain.” In this workshop parents explored energy, electricity and how to design an electric game. As a presenter she takes home the satisfaction of motivating other parents to get involved in their children’s’ educational experience.  “All the parents have the capacity of learning,” Chavez, 46 said.

After hours of workshops, Marcelo Caplan, thanked students, parents and instructors for participating in the only conference that allows students to play the role of instructors.  

Students took home their finalized projects and participation certificates, while presenters received a recommendation letter for their effort and dedication.

Scientists for Tomorrow and TRIO Upward Bound Science & Mathematics programs look forward to the next STEAM Conference on May 7th, 2016! 

To watch the video click here: https://vimeo.com/127613959 

Marcelo Caplan- Chosen as One of the Most Influential STEM figures of 2015

10984476_461846130629526_3302356706515863163_nBig news for the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) program! Marcelo Caplan, Columbia College Chicago Associate Professor of the Science and Mathematics Department and co-founder of Scientists for Tomorrow, was chosen as one of the most influential Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) figures of 2015 by the National After School Association (NAA) and  featured in After School Today magazine.

Caplan was recognized, along with 16 other STEM professionals, for enriching the educational experience of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and for promoting STEM in communities through the Scientists for Tomorrow (SfT) program, Family Science Day, STEAM Conference and Scientists for a Day program at Columbia College Chicago. “The ideal of our organization is that STEM is a human right that everybody needs to be able to understand and use it to improve their quality of life,” Caplan, 51, said.

It’s an honor and an accomplishment for Scientists for Tomorrow to have Caplan be a STEM figure among professionals such as, astronaut and S.T.E.A.M promoter, Leland D. Melvin, and Anita Krishnamurthi, Vice President of STEM Policy for Afterschool Alliance.

For Caplan, this recognition goes beyond a personal achievement. “I believe that our program is achieving a goal that is to promote STEM in the communities, and many other people are looking at our program as a possible model to be replicated in different communities around the country,” Caplan said. Caplan will continue to work hard to promote STEM programs and enrich student’s educational experience.

After School Today Magazine.pdf

 timeline