Jenny Shoots, a graduate student in the Haswell Lab, has worked with a group of volunteers in the Ville neighborhood of North St. Louis at Claver House for two years. For the past year, every Saturday morning the volunteer group hosts a Read and Feed program for young people in the neighborhood where kids can enjoy a pancake breakfast and take part in educational activities that promote literacy. The program has expanded from reading to other types of experiences promoting scientific learning. There are about 10-20 regulars that come every week excited to learn new things.
Jenny teaches these neighborhood kids about biology. In the summer and fall, her lessons are focused on the Ville Family Garden, a community garden nearby that is open for neighborhood use. Kids learn about plants and how to grow their own food, often taking home fresh vegetables or eating them right after they are picked with pride. Having regular, hands-on exposure to science and seeing that it’s something that happens in their own backyard has been eye opening and life changing for these kids and their parents, who sometimes visit and participate in the activities.
In addition to the Read and Feed, Jenny participated in a month-long summer camp for the past two years. On average, 15 kids participate in activities involving robotics, aviation science and other STEM topics. Her fellow Haswell Lab members got involved in some of the activities as well!
Up to this point, the Read and Feed and summer camp programs have recruited participants by word of mouth through neighbors, volunteers, and other kids. The volunteer group feels they are making a real impact on the participants’ lives and are eager to expand scientific programming. If you want to make a difference and get involved, there are lots of opportunities from working in the garden to helping with lesson plans and teaching. Email Jenny Shoots at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.