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Meet the CityScience Staff: Robens Bien-Aimé
In January 2014, Robens Bien-Aimé of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, joined CityScience for his very first internship in the United States. At the time, he was a student at City College studying mechanical engineering, and he had heard about the organization through one of his friends on the track team.
“It was kind of hard to find an internship or job because my grades weren’t that great,” said Robens. But his friend told him he could help out, share his knowledge about engineering, and create his own activities, so he decided to give the internship a try.
“At the time, I was looking up curriculums about sustainable energies like wind power, solar, and water,” Robens said. “From there I started with my first project that I designed, a solar charger project. I knew the general idea, but all the details I had to research. The details are very important; that’s what can make a project go very good or very bad.”
Sustainable energy is one thing about which Robens has always been passionate. Growing up in Haiti, he didn’t always have electricity, so his brothers and he would often go outside to play and explore, instilling a Robens a strong sense of curiosity.
“There was one time, when I was in middle school, one of my older brother’s classmates brought in a light bulb and a double A battery, and he was showing everyone how to turn on the light bulb with the battery and I got really interested,” said Robens. “I took apart one of my toys and did the same thing that he did.”
From there, Robens’ interest in science and energy grew until, one day, when there happened to be electricity, he caught a documentary about autocycles and the process of internal combustion works. That documentary sparked an interest in cars, which eventually grew into a desire to become a mechanical engineer.
Now, Robens works as a CityScience coach and uses his knowledge to help students explore science through projects like creating solar charger panels—his very first project at CityScience—designing robots, and building remote control cars (an activity that’s still in the works).
“With CityScience, even though, at the start, I wasn’t doing my own projects, after a few months, I got to do my own projects and use my own expertise,” said Robens. “For anyone who’s interested, who has a lot of ideas and they don’t know where to begin, they can always bring them to CityScience.”
Meet Our Newest Partner: New Design Middle School
In 2011, New Design Middle School (NDMS) was founded to provide a place where students in the surrounding low-income neighborhood could build strong relationships with learning and success. That same year, CityScience chose NDMS as a partner, and we are happy to announce that our partnership with Principal Francesca Pisa and her team of talented and determined teachers will continue this year. We hope to further support their mission to help their students keep an eye on the future, become more effective readers and communicators, and feel empowered to design their schools, neighborhood, and city with the knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom.
“NDMS is a school that is located in West Harlem, and we really focus on teaching the whole student,” said Sam D’Angelo, a second-year teaching fellow at NDMS. “Many of our students view the school as a safe place that is consistent in their lives. I often have students who have never had a true science class before sixth grade but are the most eager and excited students to learn.”
It is our goal to help the teachers of NDMS foster this eagerness and excitement in students by providing additional support and resources. But what sets CityScience apart is that we focus solely on the needs of each teacher. We ask each of them what they require to become a better teacher and then spend the year helping them to achieve their individual goals.
“Working with CityScience allows me to have an unbiased view of my teaching,” said Sam, who worked with a CityScience coach last year. “I was really able to benefit from the wisdom from an experienced science teacher who has tips of the trade to help me out. I hope to continue to work closely with the staff to help improve my teaching techniques so that I am able to enhance my students’ learning.”
Teacher Mark Lee worked in law enforcement for 24 years before joining NDMS two years ago. His goal is to gain the skills necessary to help his students “become engaged in their own scientific explorations.”
“My dream is that students will learn to frame their thinking about life in evidence-based paradigms,” said Mark. “My students live in a world in which rumors have real consequences, and feelings sometimes matter more than reason. I’d like to teach them to become constructive skeptics.”
Seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher Sal Campos is new to NDMS, having joined the team this past September, but he is well-acquainted with the environment in which his students are living. As a child, he experienced poverty and homelessness, and his journey to becoming a science teacher has been particularly difficult. Through working with CityScience, Sal hopes to learn how to incorporate more activities into his classroom and use the city as a place for scientific investigation and inquiry.
“I just want to be able to give students experiences that would get their attention through the wonder of science,” said Sal. “I would like to bring projects, activities, and presentations to the class that grab students’ attention. I want students to see the magic in the reality of science.”
We’ll make sure to keep you updated on Sam, Mark, and Sal’s progress as they strive to meet their goals over the course of this school year. If you would like to read more about CityScience’s partnership program, please click here. If you want to learn how you can help us support our partners, please click here.
(Photo Credit: New Design Middle School)
CityScience Gets a Mention in PBS NewsHour
We’re happy to see that news is spreading about the innovative work our partners at The Lowline are doing on New York City’s Lower East Side. Check out this story about the Lowline from PBS NewsHour—and the small, but exciting mention of its partnership with CityScience! CityScience has been working hard since the summer to help the Lowline develop the curriculum for its Young Designer’s Program, an educational component of the Lowline Lab. You can learn more about it here.
Meet the CityScience Staff: Marlene Braha
At CityScience, a small—but very important—group of people toil behind the scenes to ensure we provide the best services possible to the teachers and students with whom we work. One of them is 20-year-old native Brooklynite, Marlene Braha, who didn’t discover her knack for math and science until middle school.
“I actually was really a bad student up until about eighth grade when I learned the very basic version of chemistry,” Marlene said. “My teacher was very encouraging, and, all of a sudden, I thought, ‘I could be good at this.’”
Now a junior studying chemical and biomolecular engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Marlene has certainly proven her aptitude for math and science. Using her extensive knowledge, she has been working to help CityScience inspire kids to take an interest in STEM. It was through the Ladders for Leaders program, a component of New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program, that Marlene first discovered CityScience and the opportunities it affords to both the schools it serves and its talented staff.
“I was involved in the program, Ladders for Leaders, which is an internship program, and I thought I was a very good fit here at CityScience,” said Marlene. “Throughout the summer, I put together a list of different engineering design challenges for K-8 students, and then I got to test them out.”
The challenges she created with the help of several other interns were used by CityScience coaches to teach students how the engineering design process works for real-life engineers—and how they can use it, too. But the students weren’t the only ones to benefit from Marlene’s work; she’s gained her own share of knowledge.
“I learned nice and simplified versions of scientific principles, which helps me understand them more and which can help me explain it to other people,” said Marlene, “and since I tutor a lot that helps me explain to kids.”
After a summer of interning at CityScience, Marlene is now a STEM consultant and works to develop STEM projects that can be used in the classroom. Fortunately, her new position is more than just research, experimentation, and hard work.
“I would say it’s a lot of fun,” Marlene said, “There aren’t too many places that you can play around and learn about science at the same time—and meet some really talented people.”
CityScience Visits NYU for Environmental Education Expo
On October 19, CityScience will join other exhibitors at New York University’s Kimmel Center (Rosenthal Pavilion) for the NYC Outdoors! Environmental Education Expo, co-sponsored by the NYU Wallerstein Collaborative for Urban Environmental Education, The River Project, and the New York City Soil & Water Conservation District.
This FREE event is for New York City teachers, educators, and students looking for fun, fresh ideas and environmental education resources to bring back to the classroom. Teachers can learn about in-class programs, field trips, professional development opportunities, how to use the City’s parks as classrooms, and so much more. See the flyer above for more information—and make sure to stop by and say hi!
The Lowline Lab Opens October 17!
In just one week, CityScience‘s partners at The Lowline will be unveiling the Lowline Lab, a working prototype of a daylighting system, innovative educational space, and sneak peek at what the Lowline will look like once it becomes a full-fledged underground park. Visit the Lab starting October 17 to discover the Lowline’s proposed solar technology and landscape plans, interact with live experiments, and get a better understanding of how the Lowline’s technology works.
CityScience worked with the Lowline on designing and delivering a STEM curriculum for the lab’s Young Designers Program. Through this curriculum, we hope to empower local youth to become citizen scientists, learn more about their community, and contribute to this live experiment. CityScience STEM classes start Monday, October 19, with 25 public school students!
Make sure to visit the Lowline Lab when it opens on Saturday, October 17! Learn more here.
CityScience Partners with the Lowline
CityScience is excited to announce a new partnership with The Lowline, a nonprofit organization aiming to create a new underground park out of a historic trolley terminal below the streets of Lower East Side, Manhattan. The park, slated to open in 2018, will use solar technology designed to transmit natural sunlight from the world above into the space below, allowing plants, trees, and grass to grow underground.
The Lowline Lab, an educational space and working prototype of a daylighting system, is opening on October 17 and will feature the Lowline’s proposed solar technology and landscape plans, test their viability and efficacy, and offer community programming. CityScience worked with the Lowline throughout the summer on the lab’s Young Designer’s Program, designing and delivering a STEM curriculum that will empower local youth to become citizen scientists, learn more about their community, and contribute to this live experiment.
Watch the video above to learn more about the Lowline and the Young Designer’s Program, and make sure to visit the Lowline Lab when it opens on Saturday, October 17!
CityScience Meets Catchafire: Alex Brooks and Eric Hahn
One of CityScience’s major goals is streamlining our behind-the-scenes processes so we can better serve our schools, teachers, and students. CityScience Young Professional’s Board Member Alex Brooks worked with Eric Hahn, based all the way in San Jose, California, to integrate two free services—Salesforce and Google for Education—so that we can send and receive program information and evaluations more easily.
When teachers and students take their pre- and post-evaluations on our tablets, their answers are now automatically uploaded to our Salesforce database. Thanks to this new development, we can keep better track of our progress, measure our impact, and learn, in real time, what kids think of their science classes—without having to put in hundreds of hours of data entry.
CityScience Students Join the Daffodil Project
This fall, more than 400 students participating in CityScience programs will plant 1,100 yellow daffodil bulbs, a volunteer event that will beautify six different New York City schools, teach students about horticulture, and contribute to an annual tradition of remembrance.
CityScience is proud to take part in New Yorkers for Parks’ Daffodil Project, which sprouted from a generous gift of one million daffodil bulbs from a Dutch bulb supplier who wanted to help in the wake of September 11, 2001. That fall, more than 10,000 volunteers planted the bulbs across the city to remember those who lost their lives. Since then, more than 100,000 students, parks and gardening groups, civic organizations, corporate volunteers, and more have planted a total of five million bulbs around New York City.
Stay tuned to hear from the students and teachers planting bulbs in their communities this Saturday. To read more about the Daffodil Project’s history or to learn how you can participate, visit the Daffodil Project website.
CityScience Meets Catchafire: Brandon Sherman and Jason Santos
At CityScience, our Young Professional’s Board (YPB) Members play a huge role in helping us to accomplish our goals. They have advised and guided us in the fields of communications, event management, accounting, graphic design and more. But some of our biggest steps forward have come from partnerships between our YPB Members and volunteers we’ve discovered through Catchafire, a service that matches nonprofits with professionals interested in donating their time and skills.
Thanks to a YPB-Catchafire partnership, CityScience now has a new, improved, professionally designed brochure (link to brochure) to call its own, cleanly featuring our mission and seasonal program offerings. YPB Member Brandon Sherman, a Salesforce expert by day and dabbler in design by night, initiated a partnership with Seattle-based graphic designer Jason Santos through Catchafire, a service that matches professionals interested in volunteering their skills with nonprofits looking for their expertise. In addition to generously donating his time and talent to CityScience, Jason applies his visual storytelling and graphic design skills to branding, product marketing, logo creation, and more (visit his Designdromat to learn more).
You actually get an experience in how it works.Sasha P. 15