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The Junior Academy Induction Ceremony

Dr. Groome presents during The New York Academy of Sciences’ 205th Annual Meeting.

At its 205th Annual Member Meeting on November 14, 2023, The New York Academy of Sciences launched a new tradition: the induction of our Junior Academy members into our membership ranks.

The Junior Academy has been engaging students since its founding in 1948 when the Academy began hosting the City-wide science and engineering fair. The arrival of this research competition dramatically increased the need for mentored research experiences in labs around the City. Recognizing the opportunity gap, the Academy began hosting regular meetups. These conversations led to a match making program that eventually found a new home online with the creation of Launchpad in 2016. Through Launchpad, a matchmaking and collaboration platform designed to help students find research partners and mentors, Junior Academy programming became more accessible than ever before. Today, any student with a device and access to the internet can participate in a world-class mentored research program.

At the Junior Academy, we work with partners to build a community of students and mentors who work in teams to solve open innovation challenges. The challenges are real world problems scoped out by our sponsors and brought to life by our education team. Since moving online, we’ve served over 10,000 students from over 100 countries by administering over 50 open innovation challenges.

Working in a group presents a unique set of challenges, especially in STEM research – which is itself no easy task. However, we know that diverse teams produce better research and innovation. We believe – and the proof is in our evaluations – that great teamwork can be taught and mentored. Collaboration, communication, and creativity are essential components of teamwork and skills that will translate to overcoming obstacles in any setting. We at the Academy are proud to provide a space for students and mentors to come together to participate in engaging STEM programming that believes in science for the greater good.

The Junior Academy wouldn’t be possible without the mentorship that our members provide. Research has proved, time and time again, that mentors are often the difference between loving STEM and persisting in STEM. Their energy and enthusiasm have allowed us to make a generational impact both abroad and in New York. Our members have donated over 4.5 million hours of their time to mentor the next generation.

At our 205th Annual meeting, we inducted 2,834 students from around the world into the Academy. These students completed our rigorous semester-long research experience during the 2022-2023 School Year.

Last year, over 700 teams of students:

  • Designed ways to use 5G and the Internet of Things to improve energy efficiency;
  • Explored the extremes of space, underwater and the edges of scientific discovery;
  • Documented the impacts of climate change on public health;
  • Discovered the connection between forest management and a sustainable future;
  • Designed urban micro gardens to address malnutrition and hunger in their neighborhoods;
  • Led the way in understanding the connections between human rights and cybersecurity;
  • Uncovered decades of water mismanagement to design and retrofit new, safe drinking water systems;
  • Rose to the challenge of building green schools, homes and other community structures; and finally,
  • Made healthier snacks that balance taste and nutrition.

At the Academy, we like to say that we shape the future of science. And that’s very true, but it’s important to point out that our youngest members aren’t just the future. They’re doing incredible things right now.



Transcript

Thank you for welcoming us to the Annual Meeting. My name is Dr. Meghan Groome and I’m the Senior Vice President for Education at the Academy. I’m here to represent all of the people at the Academy who make our education programs so powerful including the program team of Kaitlin Green, Rosemary Puckett and Sabrina Debler. I’d also like to thank the entire education team, AV/ IT, communications, membership and marketing teams.

This is truly a cross organizational effort and I want to thank everyone from the executive office to HR for all their hard work to bring this program to life. I’d especially like to thank our Advancement team who raised the funds to allow this program to be completely free to our students. And with that, I’d like to thank our generous sponsors who support our work with not only their funding but also their guidance, insight, and expertise.

They include:

  • The Royal Academy of Engineering in Sweden
  • The J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative i.e. Stevens Initiative sponsored by the US Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute and supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates
  • Clifford Chance’s Cornerstone Initiative
  • Ericsson
  • The Ministry of Higher Education of Oman, and
  • NEOM
  • Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
  • S & P Global

I’d also like to thank our incredible on the ground partners including the Royal Health Awareness Society in Jordan, Mentor Arabia and AMU.

I’d also like to thank all the parents, teachers, siblings, friends and alumni who cheer on our students, encourage them to apply and help explain to worried parents that no, they really are up at 3am watching a live stream about the flexible use of electricity.

Lastly, we also would like to take a moment to thank our international cohort of Mentors who worked with student teams and guided them through The Junior Academy learning process. Our members are the engine of our programs, serving as mentors, judges and now, a generation of alumni. Their energy and enthusiasm have allowed us to make a generational impact both abroad and especially in New York. We are so grateful for your time and expertise.

It’s clear from the research that mentors are often the difference between loving STEM and persisting in STEM. If you have a moment, I’d like you to think about your own mentor. How they shaped you. How they gave you a critical boost. I’d personally like to thank my mentor, Ruth Cohen, and I encourage all of us to thank our mentors and pass their wisdom forward to the next generation.

With all of my thanks out of the way, I’d like to talk about the Junior Academy itself. Founded in 1948, the Academy began hosting the City-wide science and engineering fair. The arrival of this research competition dramatically increased the need for mentored research experiences in labs around the City. Recognizing the opportunity gap, the Academy began hosting regular meetups. These conversations led to a match making program that eventually found a new home online in 2016.

With the advent of a new online platform, mentored research experiences could be moved online and scaled to any student with a device and access to an internet connection. In today’s Junior Academy, we work with partners to build a community of students and mentors who work in teams to solve open innovation challenges. The challenges are real world problems scoped out by our sponsors and brought to life by our education team. Since we moved online, we’ve served over 10,000 students from over 100 countries by administering over 50 open innovation challenges.

Last year, nearly 700 teams:

  • Designed ways to use 5G and the Internet of Things to improve energy efficiency,
  • Explored the Extremes of Space, underwater and the edges of scientific discovery,
  • Documented the impacts of climate change on public health,
  • Discovered the connection between forest management and a sustainable future,
  • Designed urban micro gardens to address malnutrition and hunger in their neighborhoods,
  • led the way in understanding the connections between human rights and cybersecurity,
  • Uncovered decades of water mismanagement to design and retrofit new, safe drinking water systems
  • Rose to the challenge of building green schools, homes and other community structures, and finally, my favorite,
  • Made healthier snacks that balance taste and nutrition.


In addition to the Junior Academy, nearly 800 students participated in the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program. Students worked in close-knit teams with mentors to build core scientific and work ready skills that complement their research projects.

On its own, STEM research is hard. In a team, STEM reach can be even harder. But we know that diverse teams produce better research and innovation. We believe, and the proof is in our evaluations, that great teamwork can be taught and mentored. Collaboration, communication, and creativity are essential components of team work, and for that matter, overcoming obstacles in any setting. We at the Academy are proud to provide a space for students and mentors to come together to participate in engaging STEM programming that believes in science for the greater good.

Bringing together young people from around the globe in a STEM-enriched environment can open doors and prepare students for science paths otherwise unknown and we are so pleased to be a part of their STEM journey.

Today, we inducted 2,834 students from the Junior Academy and 1000 Girls 1000 Futures to join the New York Academy of Sciences as Young Members. We are so proud of you and pleased to connect you with the legacy of the Academy. At the Academy, we like to say that we shape the future of science. And that’s very true, but I always like to point out that our youngest members aren’t just the future, they’re doing incredible things right now.

Please join me in welcoming the Junior Academy Class of 2023 into the New York Academy of Sciences.

Keeping U.S. STEM education globally competitive

The New York Academy’s Senior Vice President of Education, Meghan Groome, wrote an op-ed for US News & World Report about the investments in STEM education. She notes that workers in the science and engineering fields have grown at an annual rate of 3 percent between 1960 and 2013, compared to 2 percent of the overall workforce.

As of 2011, improvements have been made in STEM education with 91 percent of high school math teachers and 92 percent of high school science teachers holding a regular or advanced certification. That’s up from 83 percent in 2013. But there’s still more that needs to be done, Groome adds, because, “Americans students are still far behind their peers in other developed nations.”

Read Groome’s entire op-ed here.

If you want to help build on the successes made in STEM education, apply to be a mentor!

Exploring STEM Opportunities in Afterschool Programs

Dr. Meghan Groome was recently asked to provide City Council testimony on the success of the Academy’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program.

On Tuesday, October 16, 2012, Dr. Meghan Groome, director of K-12 Education and Science & the City at the Academy was asked to provide testimony for the New York City Council on the topic of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) opportunities in afterschool programs. Dr. Groome runs the Academy’s Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program, which aims to create a replicable, scalable program model that can be instituted in communities near and far. Below is a transcript of Dr. Groome’s testimony.

Testimony Transcript:

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to testify before the Committee on Youth Services. My name is Meghan Groome and I am the director of K12 Education and Science & the City at the New York Academy of Sciences. For nearly 200 years the New York Academy of Sciences (or the Academy) has brought together extraordinary people working at the frontiers of discovery and has promoted vital links between science and society. The Academy has a history of building new scientific communities, constructing innovative connections among an extensive scientific network, and driving path-breaking initiatives for scientific, social, and economic benefit.

Since the 1940s, the Academy has made investments in K-12 (Kindergarten through 12th grade) science education, with programs like the New York City Science & Engineering Fair, capacity-building programs to support outreach in other institutions, and mentoring programs for top performing students in New York City. As a result of these investments, the Academy has increased the City’s ability to nurture top scientific talent.

In recent years, the Academy has redoubled its efforts to bring New York’s wealth of scientific resources to bear on the needs of the City’s schools, with a focus on improving science education for all students, especially those traditionally underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. The New York City Science Education Initiative has a simple mission:  to identify high-impact, scalable pathways for scientists to directly improve the number of children who are STEM-literate. Our theory of change relies heavily on the core competencies of the Academy – to serve as a connector between the well-resourced scientific community and the under-resourced education community (including high-need students and teachers).

In 2010, a group of Deans and Faculty affiliated with the City’s research and medical universities asked the Academy to create a program to provide their top young scientists with an opportunity to learn how to teach science/STEM.  At the same time, The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) approached the Academy to find a partnership opportunity to provide more STEM education in the OST and Beacon Programs. 

Launched in Fall 2010, the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program was designed to satisfy both requests by recruiting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the Academy’s Science Alliance[i] program to volunteer to teach in DYCD funded afterschool programs.  When hired, I myself had a hard time understanding why a young scientist, mathematician, or engineer would take an afternoon a week to volunteer to teach 4th through 8th graders, but it becomes easier to understand when you learn that this generation of young people believe it is their obligation to serve as role models and mentors. They have grown up in a culture of service learning. They also face a tough job market where teaching, interpersonal, and mentoring skills are at a premium and can result in increased job opportunities. 

Now, as we begin our 6th semester of mentors, we’ve worked with nearly 400 young scientists, 7,000 children, and delivered more than 80,000 hours of instruction in all 5 boroughs (Exhibit 1). In Fall 2011, we expanded to Newark, NJ, and recently received a $2.95 million grant from the National Science Foundation to scale this program through the State University of New York system which will serve close to 200 young scientists and 3,000 children.

For the students in the programs, the benefits are obvious. As one of our mentors recently wrote, “Learning comes pretty easily when people enjoy what you’re asking them to learn!” Moreover, our mentors deliver high quality, inquiry-based math, science, and robotics courses while serving as role models and demonstrating to the students that scientists aren’t at all stereotypes.

For example, all of the mentors do the same activity on the first day:  they ask the students to “draw a scientist”[ii]. It’s a research protocol that allows the mentors to understand that most kids hold the same misconception of a scientist; invariably the students almost all draw an older white man with crazy hair, a bowtie, and often an evil glint in his eye. It doesn’t take long after the students meet their mentors to understand that today’s scientists used to look just like them. This realization is the beginning of the development of a scientific identity. When students are again asked to draw a scientist on the last day of class, they often draw their mentors or themselves in a lab coat.

In addition to attitudinal changes, children in our program receive at least 12-15 hours of enrichment programming over the course of a semester. While this may not sound like a lot of time, consider that the average student receives 2.3 hours of science instruction a week[iii] and that many of our mentors report that they are the sole source of science in a child’s day.

We are often asked why we don’t work directly with schools and the answer is that we do – we have nearly 1,400 public school teachers engaged in programming designed for them.  However, through the STEM Mentoring Program we realized that we had a great opportunity to serve the need of our young scientists to learn in an environment where the children’s social, emotional, and educational well being were top priority while hewing to the hands-on, activity learning spirit of afterschool programs.

  Afterschool programs typically offer smaller class sizes, freedom from state and local academic standards, reduced anxiety over tests and performance indicators, and more fluid uses of time free from the traditional school day structure. The Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program takes advantage of the existing infrastructure of OST programs, which include hundreds of community-based organizations charged with the safekeeping and, increasingly, the academic enrichment of the children in their care. 

As science continues to be marginalized in formal classrooms, the role of afterschool programs is increasingly viewed as an important arena for academic enrichment[iv]. Expanding the school day through afterschool programs offers the opportunity to increase a student’s exposure to high-quality STEM education by providing three elements that lead to an individual’s persistence into a STEM career: engagement, continuity, and capacity[v]. While continuity and capacity are important factors, there is evidence that engagement is potentially more important than achievement or course enrollment[vi]. By infusing STEM into existing community-based afterschool programs with strong curriculum partners, the proposed program can bypass the constraints of the formal classroom structure by providing relevant, hands-on curriculum; opportunities to interact with young, diverse scientific role models; and additional content knowledge and resources[vii]. Afterschool programs reach large swaths of urban students and provide safe and structured informal learning environments that allow for creative and enriching STEM programming[viii].

As a result of the success we’ve had with the current Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program, the Academy will pilot this program with the State University of New York (SUNY) in six communities, including an expanded partnership with SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn. Additionally, we have a partnership with the Girl Scouts of the USA to scale this program through their council system. With the generous and sustained support of our funders and the Department of Youth and Community Development, we aim to deepen our commitment to the students of New York and create a model by which any region with an abundance of scientists and students with an enthusiasm for STEM can adopt this new model for delivering high quality STEM education via afterschool programs.


[i] www.nyas.org/sciencealliance

[ii] http://www.ecu.edu/ncspacegrant/docs/RESTEPdocs/DASTRatingRubric.pdf

[iii] http://www.csss-science.org/downloads/NAEPElemScienceData.pdf

[iv] http://afterschoolscience.org/pdf/coalition_publications/afterschool%20advantage.pdf

[v] http://www.smm.org/static/about/ecc_paper.pdf

[vi] Maltese, A. V. and Tai, R. H. (2011), Pipeline persistence: Examining the association of educational experiences with earned degrees in STEM among U.S. students. Science Education, 95: 877-907. doi: 10.1002/sce.20441

[vii] Coalition for Science After School. (2007). Science in after-school: A blueprint for Action. Retrieved from http://www.greatscienceforgirls.org/files/Science-in-Afterschool.pdf

[viii] Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education. (2010). Out of school time STEM: Building experiences, building bridges. B. Bevan, V. Michalchik, R. Bhanot, N. Rauch, J. Remold, R. Semper, & P. Shields (Eds.). San Francisco, CA: Exploratorium.