The goal of the Bishop’s Summer Academy and Fun Enrichment (B-SAFE) is to ensure that elementary and middle school students continue learning even during summer vacations. The Basic  Science Partnership collaborates with B-SAFE to help improve the education of students that are “at-risk” due to economic disadvantage, neighborhood violence, disruptive home lives, and other factors.  BSP and B-SAFE have created a summer program for these students that reviews and expands upon lessons taught during the school year using a creative and interactive approach.

The Harvard Medical School Kindling Interest in Doing Science (HMS KIDS) is a science enrichment program that is run by graduate students in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program. With support and funding from BSP, HMS KIDS volunteers design hands-on, lab-based activities to get students excited about science! Lessons include basics of physics, chemistry, biology, genetics and geology, with the goal of helping campers to understand the role of science in their daily lives and the world around them.

HMS KIDS works with middle-school students at two B-SAFE camp sites, Epiphany School in Dorchester and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the South End. Camp runs two mornings or afternoons a week for four weeks (a total of 7-8 sessions – see timeline below.)  At the first lesson, volunteers give an overview of the work in their labs to expose students to a breadth of current research. Each subsequent lesson is designed by a single volunteer (with feedback from BSP) and facilitated by the group. To receive TA credit for HMS KIDS, a volunteer must attend orientation, design one lesson and attend each camp meeting to facilitate the lessons designed by their team members.

The B-SAFE – HMS KIDS camp is not a class where students learn concepts from a book. Instead, participants learn how to develop hypotheses, conduct experiments and analyze the results. Our focus is the understanding of the scientific method and process rather than the memorization of facts. This approach makes science more fun and interesting to the students, improving their attitudes towards the subject. The goal of HMS KIDS is to inspire the scientific interests of local students of Boston and to expose the students to career options in science.

The benefits for HMS KIDS volunteers are numerous. First, B-SAFE hosts an in-depth workshop covering classroom management and lesson planning, which are greatly useful for volunteers interested in teaching. Second, the challenge of explaining science to young students without a solid subject background helps volunteers learn to better communicate science to the public. Third, the close-knit nature of the B-SAFE camps allows volunteers to connect with their students and watch them improve their science skills. Feedback from volunteers has been overwhelmingly positive, citing both the fun and educational nature of the HMS KIDS experience. The camp presents a fun, science-focused break from the everyday school life for young students (and from the laboratory environment for our volunteers.)