CityScience News

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Executive Director Thor Snilsberg Appears on New York Live


On Monday, April 25, CityScience executive director, Thor Snilsberg, appeared on New York Live to discuss the work CityScience has been doing with our partners at the Lowline. CityScience has been working with the Lowline since last summer to develop a STEM curriculum for its Young Designers Program, a component of the Lowline Lab. In this segment, Thor talks about how many young people the Lowline and CityScience have reached through these sessions and what they are learning through the program. Watch the video below!

Published in General NewsSnapshots • Published on April 27, 2016

Meet the CityScience Staff: Alfonso Perez

Alfonso - Profile

CityScience depends on its talented coaches to provide the support and resources necessary to improve the quality of science education in our partnership schools. Alfonso Perez is CityScience’s newest coach for our longtime partner, New Design Middle School (NDMS)—but he’s far from new to education.

“I knew I wanted to teach right after I graduated from college,” said Alfonso. “I started taking graduate courses in library and information sciences, but I quickly realized that I wanted to be in the classroom. Soon after, I was accepted into the NYC Teaching Fellows Program and began teaching bilingual (English/Spanish) and ESL classes.”

As a native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Alfonso has always been passionate about bilingual education because of his own experiences learning English as a second language. But after 11 years of teaching in a traditional classroom setting, Alfonso was finally ready to grow in new ways as a STEM educator.

“One of my former colleagues, Liz Castelli, has worked at CityScience for the past three years, and she recommended that I apply for a coaching job with the organization,” Alfonso said. “I remember checking out CityScience’s website, reading the mission statement and core beliefs, and thinking, ‘Yes, this sounds just like my own teaching philosophy!’”

Now, Alfonso collaborates with NDMS principal, Francesca Pisa, to define goals and lead professional development workshops for the school’s science department. In addition, he works directly with NDMS science teachers Sam D’Angelo, Mark Lee, and Salvador Campos, to help them improve their practice.

“Being a CityScience coach is truly an amazing experience,” said Alfonso. “Similar to teaching, my ultimate goal is to improve student outcomes and experiences in STEM classrooms. However, as an instructional coach, I’m now more focused on meeting the different needs of the teachers that serve these students. I enjoy listening to the teachers, discussing challenges and solutions, and helping them uncover their strengths and skills.”

All of this requires a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, organizing, and communicating, and yet this isn’t all that Alfonso does for CityScience.

“Aside from being a CityScience STEM coach, I’m also developing and teaching a robotics class for an afterschool program,” Alfonso said. “Once a week, I get a chance to help middle-school students design, build, and program their own robots. It’s an incredibly fun and rewarding experience that reminds me how much I love STEM education!”

If you’re interested in learning more about CityScience staff members—or joining our team!—please check out our Staff page.

Published in General NewsSnapshots • Published on March 31, 2016

Behind the Scenes: Testing Gadgets for CityScience Programs


Before CityScience introduces new projects to the students in its programs, we test them to make sure that they are not only fun and educational but also functional!

The homemade fans above, for example, were originally used to see if handmade skyscrapers could withstand the “weather.” Because the kids loved the fans (and because they seemed to work well), they had a chance to make their own at a recent CityScience session at Win, an amazing nonprofit organization that strives to break the cycle of homeless for women and their children.

In the video below, CityScience intern Seán McLoughlin tests a homopolar motor, which is made up of three parts: a battery, some neodymium magnets, and a piece of copper wire.

“The magnets are connected to the base of the battery—they stick together due to magnetic attraction,” says Seán. “When the wire makes contact with the terminals of the battery, a circuit is completed and a current runs through the wire. The strong magnetic field of the magnets exerts a force on the wire when there is current running through it, causing the wire to spin.”

Check back soon for more updates on what’s going on behind the scenes at CityScience!

Published in General NewsSnapshots • Published on March 30, 2016

CityScience Celebrates 5 Years at NDMS

NDMS Courtyard

Each year, CityScience partners with schools across New York City to help them improve the quality of the science education they offer to students. In 2011, New Design Middle School (NDMS) became one of our first partners, and we are happy to say we still work with the school to this day.

Since its founding, three different coaches have provided NDMS teachers with support, resources, and help in overcoming the many obstacles they face inside and outside of the classroom: Ethan Kerr, Liz Castelli, and Alfonso Perez.

Ethan Kerr was the very first CityScience coach to walk the halls of NDMS. But because the school had just been founded, he had to guide teachers through some unique and particularly difficult challenges related to its new ideas on framework, pedagogy, and curriculum.

Over the course of his two years at the school, he modeled and observed teaching methods, provided feedback, and, ultimately, helped teachers feel more comfortable in the classroom. In addition, he aided them in implementing a semester-long, project-based curriculum that allowed students to learn and practice science in the school’s own courtyard.

“I have a lot of really fond memories and stories of the students just getting out in the courtyard and getting their hands dirty,” said Ethan. “The impact, the smiles, the reality that they could do this and this was their land—it was a bold new perspective shift that the students experienced in engaging with this project outside of the school.”

Ethan’s successor, Liz Castelli, joined CityScience in 2012 and developed on the foundation he had built by figuring out, with the teachers’ and administration’s help, what science should look like at NDMS and how they could achieve their vision together.

“It’s about excitement; it’s about teaching kids how to learn, not teaching science firstly,” said Liz. “I consistently reminded the science team that they’re a team, and told them, ‘You’re working towards this thing together.’ That was a big thing for me.”

Now, Alfonso Perez is taking the lead at NDMS by defining goals and creating professional development opportunities with principal, Francesca Pisa; fostering a positive and collaborative atmosphere for teachers; and helping all of them build on their existing skills, knowledge, and beliefs.

Thanks to all of this hard work, the science department recently received a glowing quality review—but there is still room for both NDMS teachers and CityScience coaches to grow and learn together.

“Right now the school is implementing ‘lesson studies’ in every department, a powerful, peer-to-peer learning strategy where teachers collaborate to plan, implement, observe, critique, and refine a lesson in order to help their students succeed,” Alfonso said. “The main idea behind this approach is that great teaching doesn’t happen in isolation, since teachers grow tremendously when they learn from each other. I couldn’t agree more!”

Published in What's HappeningGeneral News • Published on March 30, 2016

Executive Directors and Leaders Unite to Build Small Agencies in NYC

Thor and Quote

On March 10, CityScience’s executive director, Thor Snilsberg, completed the final session of PASE’s Executive Leadership Series for Small Agencies. Funded by TransCanada, this program convened twenty leaders from emerging nonprofits serving youth in New York City. Deep dives into organizational capacity, board development, fundraising, and management were facilitated by experts and seasoned leaders who provided resources, templates, and best practices. Reflecting on his experience, Thor was thankful for “the opportunity to listen and share experiences with of the other nineteen small agency leaders. The camaraderie was amazing. No matter the challenge or opportunity, my peers and the experts around the table were present with firsthand advice and support.”

Thank you, PASE, for supporting the development of innovative organizations! 

Published in General NewsSnapshots • Published on March 11, 2016

CityScience Attends NYC DOE’s 2016 Partnership Institute

CityScience encourages all of its staff members and coaches to take advantage of professional development opportunities not only to improve the services that we offer to our clients but also to help them grow as professionals in their given fields.

CityScience Coach Alfonso Perez participated in this year’s New York City Department of Education’s Partnership Institute on February 26 to learn more about A Vision for School Improvement: Applying the Framework for Great Schools and using NYC DOE’s STEM framework to support STEM education.

“I took away several things; I think, for me, one of the most important was meeting the other organizations in New York and seeing what they’re doing,” says Alfonso. “It helped me realize how CityScience is unique in our position and our perspective, and what we do is very unique both from our personal vision and as an organization.”

Alongside representatives from other New York City STEM and educational organizations, Alfonso gained a deeper understanding of the six areas on which schools can focus to improve overall: trust amongst stakeholders, effective school leadership, strong family-community ties, collaborative teachers, rigorous instruction, a supportive environment, and most importantly, student achievement.

“I took time to actually explore this Framework for Great Schools, and in the context of the school I work with, NDMS, it was cool to see there was actually data that quantifies this stuff,” says Alfonso. “It was interesting to look for patterns and to find data that supports work that I’m doing.”

Participants also learned about NYC DOE’s STEM framework, a matrix developed to help organizations working in both formal and informal settings become more STEM-centric. This framework encourages kids to ask questions and apply their STEM knowledge to real life, a practice students can use through college and beyond and one that CityScience promotes in its own programs.

To learn more about NYC DOE’s Partnership Institute, visit its website.

Published in General News • Published on March 02, 2016

CityScience Visits Brooklyn College

On February 23, CityScience participated in an event at Brooklyn College’s Magner Career Center for students interested in pursuing a career in the sciences. We were happy to discuss current internship opportunities and share sage advice alongside other great organizations like Bricks 4 Kidz, the Manhattan-Staten Island Area Health Education Center, Robert Half Technology, and the Tell Every Amazing Lady (T.E.A.L.) About Ovarian Cancer Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation. We hope students gained more knowledge about the state of the job market for those entering STEM fields and learned a little about CityScience and the opportunities we offer!

If you’re interested in learning more about internship and volunteer opportunities at CityScience, please visit our Volunteer page.

Published in • Published on February 23, 2016

Meet the CityScience Staff: Matt Patrick


Volunteers play a huge role at CityScience. From preparing teaching materials to developing curricula to leading public education programs, volunteers have helped us in many important ways.

Matt Patrick has witnessed the value of our volunteers firsthand. He joined CityScience four years ago as a sophomore at Hunter College, working part-time to prepare materials for CityScience coaches. Now, he teaches courses, manages our afterschool programs, and works to recruit talented people who want to give back.

“We don’t have a cookie cutter plan for volunteers,” says Matt. “We work with them, their skills, and what they need, so they can do projects that interest them.”

CityScience works with high school, college, and professional volunteers, all of whom help us in their own unique ways.

High school students suggest activities that would have engaged them as middle school students and proceed to research, model, and test their project ideas. College students work more directly with education and science programs to refine more abstract ideas into usable activities. And, most importantly, scientists, STEM professionals, and corporate volunteers donate their expertise to help CityScience connect new curricula to potential career paths and the real world.

“We have lots and lots of ideas, but without our volunteers, it would not be as much fun implementing them,” says Matt.

You can make a difference, too. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for information on upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Published in What's HappeningGeneral NewsSnapshots • Published on February 17, 2016

Behind the Scenes: CityScience Robotics Program

CityScience is halfway done with our year-long SAYA robotics program in Ozone Park, led by STEM Coach Alfonso Perez, and we’re excited to share what we’ve been up to!

After learning the very same engineering design process that real-life engineers use, students worked on bringing their own robots to life using laptops and EV3 programming software. The process of building these robots in groups taught them how to collaborate with others and create solutions to problems all on their own.

In the video above, Alfonso is showing a prototype of the kids’ next project to Séan, our Atmospheric Physics volunteer from National University of Ireland, Galway. It takes coaches like Alfonso a lot of time to make models of projects and to find a way to make them work, so the students can complete them, too. On average, for every hour of instruction, there’s two hours of prep. That’s what makes programs like this one great.

In addition to his work in the classroom and his prep outside of the classroom, Alfonso created a website for students so they can practice using EV3 programming software and building robots at home.

Being a teacher may be a lot of work, but we’re excited to meet a whole new batch of 20 middle schoolers for winter and spring!

Published in General NewsSnapshots • Published on January 13, 2016

CityScience To Be Featured In DYCD’s Day of Wonder


CityScience is happy to announce that we have been selected from dozens of nonprofits to participate in the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development’s “Cultivating Curiosity: Day of Wonder.” This event will showcase the programs of a select number of organizations in order to instill in DYCD staff members the very same curiosity to inquire, create, and explore that youth experience when they participate. We look forward to taking part in this event on February 26. Thank you so much for this opportunity!

Published in General NewsSnapshots • Published on January 06, 2016

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In our exploration I learned how to read and make 3D topographic maps. It is a lot of steps and some simple math. Harley H. 15