Science Club is an afterschool, mentor-based science program for middle school youth. This program brings graduate student mentors together with small groups of students to conduct fun and engaging scientific investigations.
The mentorship-based, science education model includes:
- A focus on longterm, academically-focused relationships between youth club members and practicing scientists.
- Hands-on science curricula, spanning topics like biomedical engineering, medicine, food science, environmental science, audiology, and neuroscience.
- A fun event at the end of each curricular unit where students share their work with friends and family.
- Rigorous evaluation and evidence-based methods designed to learn what's working (and what's not) and share it with the wider community.
“I wasn’t thinking about a career in science until I started in Science Club at the Boys & Girls Club. It changed my life. I just graduated from the University of Kentucky. It would not have happened without the Club and Northwestern mentors.” – Myles M., Science Club graduate
The program is based in Chicago at the Pederson-McCormick Boys & Girls Club in Uptown and True Value Club in Little Village, and in Evanston at the education non-profit Family Focus and McGaw YMCA’s MetaMedia.
Science Club’s story begins in 2008. Searching for ways to engage their students in real-world science research, Chicago Public School teachers would often contact Dr. Michael Kennedy, then Director of Education and Outreach for the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University, to arrange for field trips to a lab or for classroom visits.
There was clearly a need to connect Chicago students to scientists. In collaboration with Boys & Girls Club and Chicago Public Schools teachers, Dr. Kennedy and Dr. Carolyn Jahn decided to address this need by launching Science Club.
In 2009, Science Club received its first major funding from a competitive $1.5 million, five-year grant from National Institutes for Health Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). In addition to funding the program, the NIH grant also funded a formal education research study. Based on the study’s positive results, Science Club has expanded from its original location at the Pederson-McCormick Boys & Girls Club to serve middle school youth in four locations across Chicago and Evanston.
"Science Club has hands down made my graduate school experience more fulfilling. This has been a tremendous learning experience. I’ve learned different teaching strategies, how to plan and design curriculum and build a relationship with a new community partner. I am starting a career in science outreach and education and that is 100% because of Science Club." – Stephanie Rangel, Science Club scientist-mentor
Now, Science Club involves mentors from multiple universities supporting youth across 4 community sites each year.
- Science Club has supported 338 youth members since 2008
- Participating youth each receive 54 additional hours of hands-on science instruction every year
- Youth participation is equivalent in magnitude to raising a student one full aptitude level among their peers
- Youth emerge from the program with greater confidence in their problem-solving abilities and a better understanding of the scientific method
- Over 125 scientist-mentors from 3 Chicago-based universities have volunteered their time since 2008
- In our 2015 program evaluation, over 80% of Science Club mentors reported the experience taught them skills such as teaching, mentoring and science communication
- And two-thirds of Science Club mentors said the experience has influenced their career direction
- Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation awarded Science Club the 2013 STEM Impact Award
- Science Club won the Arts & Science Cities of Distinction Award from Phi Beta Kappa
- The Association of Technology and Science Centers featured Science Club in a special edition of their print magazine, Dimensions, focused on inspiring growth through mentorship
Mentors work with small groups of middle schoolers. Groups meet weekly for hands-on lab activities which encourage scientific thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and safety. One of the most important things about Science Club is the opportunity to build real, strong relationships between mentors and kids, not only boosting their science skills, but instilling confidence through encouragement and regular support.
Each new mentor receives an in-depth small group training session and is paired with a more senior mentor for the first quarter. Many mentors report that the Science Club experience helps reinvigorate their excitement about science and its broad relevance to society, and some have gone on to science education and science advocacy careers based on their experience.