By Mira Postelnek
START Science is an initiative that mobilizes college students to bring exciting and engaging scientific experiences to local public elementary schools, particularly those with inadequate education in the sciences. The program offers weekly modules covering a wide range of topics, from biology and chemistry to physics and engineering.
Currently, START operates in four public schools in Washington Heights, primarily working with 4th grade classrooms, as well as teaching a few classrooms in the 6th and 7th grade. Each volunteer is assigned to a specific team that works with a specific classroom throughout the semester.
Volunteers for START come from diverse backgrounds and majors, as everyone has something valuable to contribute. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, START organized end-of-the-year events for the participating public schools and classrooms. To enhance the impact of these events and keep students inspired and interested in STEM, START partnered with BioBus, an organization dedicated to helping students who have been excluded from the scientific community due to factors such as race, gender, economic status, and physical access.
The end-of-year event took the form of a science fair, with START volunteers and members from BioBus collaborating to set up various stations. START stations featured hands-on activities, like making lava lamps, slime, chromatography flowers, DNA bracelets, and performing dissections. BioBus brought research-grade microscopes and live organisms for the children to observe. This setup allowed students to explore the STEM stations at their own pace. Six public school classrooms attended the event with their teachers, and the students had an incredible time engaging with the experiments and collecting souvenirs.
The event successfully achieved its goal of inspiring the children. One particular moment captured the essence of START’s mission: three 4th-grade girls, while dissecting a frog, turned to a volunteer and expressed their aspirations to become biologists. Witnessing such enthusiasm reaffirmed the program’s commitment to inspiring students and provide them with opportunities for further exploration.
The event was attended by the Bickoff family, who are the generous donors that make START possible. Mr. Bickoff spoke about their support for the program and their belief in spreading Yeshiva University’s values beyond the university’s walls. The event left a lasting impact not only on the children, but also on the volunteers, who had the opportunity to make a difference in their lives.
START is a club that embodies the values of Yeshiva University, and extends their impact to the Washington Heights community. By fostering a love for science and providing access to engaging educational experiences, START is making a significant difference in the lives of students and promoting a brighter future for STEM.