BU Science, a unique student group that puts Binghamton University students into local elementary school classrooms, has been helping children learn the fundamentals of science for nine years now.
BU Science is a student-run, volunteer-based program at Binghamton University which travels locally to deliver hands-on science presentations to elementary students ranging from kindergartners through third graders.
BU Science started as a small program by the University’s bioengineering department to get students excited about science at a young age and to prepare them for more advanced classes in high school.
Today, BU Science has grown into an organization of 57 University students that teach approximately 260 local students from Charles F. Johnson and George F. Johnson elementary schools. BU Science has developed 80 customized lesson plans with 300 lessons now being taught a year, according to Brenno Varanda, president of BU Science and a doctoral candidate studying mechanical engineering.
Kristie Shirreffs, the program’s graduate adviser and a doctoral candidate in the department of organizational behavior and leadership in the School of Management, said some student teachers go above and beyond expectations.
“Many of our students are so passionate that they do research on their own as well so that they can add extra interesting information to their teaching,” Shirreffs said.
Varanda said that the program benefits Binghamton University students as much as the community.
“There are also few clubs that you can really have a good impact on local community, while still looking good on your résumé,” Varanda said. “Outreaching beyond the school, crossing that bubble and going out in the community and actually helping, people from outside really appreciate it.”
Ryan Hand, a senior majoring in biology, has worked with local kindergartners, first graders and second graders during his two years in the program.
“I really didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I have,” Hand said. “Most people in the program really enjoy doing it, even if they don’t want to be to a teacher. You get to interact with kids and see that science can be a lot of fun.”
Alison Gang, the student ambassador for BU Science, said the students being taught also enjoy the experience.
“They like the one-on-one attention and getting to answer questions and telling us stories about the lesson,” said Gang, a senior in majoring in mechanical engineering. “They love the hands-on experiments as well.”
Binghamton University students generate lesson plans on their own, but they must get approval from the teachers before they apply them in classrooms.
Shirreffs said that last year BU Science reformatted its lesson plans to accommodate kindergarten through third grade curriculum in the hopes of widening the program.
“We now have the ability to reach more elementary school students and as more elementary school teachers learn of the program, I am sure that they will be interested and we will expand,” Shirreffs said.
Most student teachers are undergraduates, according to Varanda. Prospective student teachers must undergo an online application process to join the program. Once accepted, they receive training to work in a classroom environment.
“[The program] is open for everyone,” Varanda said. “The majority of students are educational, science and bio majors. But we’ve found out it’s really just students who want to do something for the local community on their own time.”