Labs for Kids

Science Mentoring • Critical Thinking Development • Service Learning

“Science Is Discovery”
LABS FOR KIDS, Inc. is a non-profit organization, dedicated to early childhood education, science education and critical thinking development, through service learning and mentoring, for grades K-12. Working primarily with grades K-5 our service learners and volunteer mentors use hands-on laboratory and field science curriculum combined with committed partnerships between students, teachers, parents, city schools, and universities. We support, encourage, and are developing PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies). Teach what you learn, learn from teaching.
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2005-2006 Partners In Education New Partner of the Year Birmingham City Schools
Labs For Kids partnering with The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biology and W.J. Christian School, Birmingham, Alabama (2005-2006 School Year)

Labs for Kids is dedicated to measurably improving children’s interest, understanding, and performance in science and math. Mentors and service-learners help students develop the critical thinking skills necessary for the 21st century. Often overlooked, critical thinking skills are pre-requisites in preparing students for standardized tests. Labs for Kids, Inc. was founded in October 2005 and incorporated as a non profit in April 2009. Our funding source is public and private foundation grants, but mostly, the generous donations of private individuals.

Labs for Kids has grown from a single mentor working with twenty kindergartners to an organization that has helped improve science understanding using hands-on curriculum, dedicated student and professional service learning partners and the hard working teachers and schools that we serve, to impact the lives of over six thousand students. In addition, Labs for Kids created and coordinated a unique anatomy outreach program taught to hundreds of elementary students in several school systems and numerous private schools. We are looking forward with great excitement and high expectations to reach more children with the caring, yet demanding, rigors of science learning and research.

Labs for Kids works primarily with grades K-5 and coordinates special projects with Mentors for grades K-12. Our goal is to encourage the science leaders of the future through improving a child’s interest, understanding, performance, and critical thinking skills in the disciplines of science and math. Our methods focus on hands-on laboratory and field science curriculum combined with committed partnerships.We work mostly with urban schools, but do not limit our efforts to urban environments. We believe in the power of mentoring and service-learning. We support, encourage, and are developing PALS, Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS). Teach what you learn and learn from teaching. Mentors are dedicated students, educators and working scientists. Many of our volunteer partners are working PhDs, grad students and dedicated undergrad “Science Mentors,” committed to science and math. They have a passion for their work and bring that enthusiasm to Labs for Kids.

K-5 Mentors and Service Learners
Our approach focuses on early childhood education, using science curriculum and exposure through science mentoring. We believe that the earlier you engage a child the better. Our “Science Mentors” are undergrad students who commit to a K -3 grade at a school each school year. “Science Mentors” teach a diverse, hands-on curriculum on a regularly scheduled basis throughout the school year. Thinking and critical thinking development are emphasized. Volunteer Science Mentors are required to commit to one full school year. However, the relationships that develop between Mentor and students keep many volunteers coming back year after year. Mentoring builds relationships that last a lifetime.

Labs for Kids at the 4th –12th grade level seeks and works with the most interested, hardest working and talented science students. University level concepts, curriculum, and expectations are the basis for projects and presentations. Mentors help top students, teams and classes understand and prepare applicable research projects for Science Fairs and Science Olympiads. Participation in Labs for Kids during 6 – 8 grades requires a solid understanding of the scientific method and its application. Participation may require application, testing and an interview as determined by the school, mentors, PhD’s, and Labs for Kids

Often adults have a difficult time transferring knowledge to children, especially to young children. Let’s face it: often adults have a hard time conveying information to adults. That’s when it is great to have PALS. Peer Assisted Learning Strategies simply means friends teaching friends. Every child has a unique gift for learning and teaching. Allowing and encouraging children to share their gift of knowledge about a science or math problem/solution, theme/concept, or scientific application with their peers empowers all involved. Labs for Kids encourage group problem solving and require students to gather information from all available resources. Sharing and an accurate understanding of the information by all involved are essential in science and math. The PALS technique encourages fundamental elements of leadership. PALS employ the pedagogical philosophy of overcoming and understanding limitations on an individual basis through the power of combinational dedication. Think SWARM theory. For additional information on Swarm theory and algorithms http: //www.swarmintelligence.org/tutorials.php.

Teach Up Teach Down
One of the real world requirements of scientists is to present scientific conclusions based on their research. PALS require that the very best students present to and mentor their fellow students. An example of how Teach Up Teach Down works can be seen on our Labs for Kids Video Podcast. The very best students help teach with assistance of “Science Mentors,” their older and younger contemporaries. “The Teach Up Teach Down” method builds public speaking and leadership skills. Sharing gained knowledge reinforces understanding and develop peer role models and responsibility.

Science Heroes

Our meaning of hero includes the grueling, single-minded, dedication to problem solving and understanding demonstrated by PhDs. Throughout the school year Labs for Kids coordinates PhD guest appearances. Leaders in their fields of study, “PhD and Science Heroes” prepare special presentations, exercises, experiments or individual instruction for students or classes. The scientists prepare their own agenda and can request any size audience or class they desire. The school will coordinate the appropriate student(s) or class. The PhD then shares the gift of their education and knowledge about their area of expertise. PhD and Science Heroes demonstrate first hand what a real scientist is and does. They provide students with information, practical guidelines and real world application of science and math. Their visits foster, encourage and motivate students to be involved in the amazing world of scientific inquiry and discovery.

 

UAB Outreach & Labs for Kids

Labs for Kids would not have come into existence without the enormous outreach support of UAB’s Department of Biology. The Biology Department is dedicated to community outreach and science education. Hundreds of volunteer hours are logged each year by the faculty, staff and students of UAB’s Department of Biology. Dr. Robert "Bud" Fischer, Dr. Ken Marion, Dr. Lucy Andrews, Dr. Roger Gilchrist, Leslie Hendon, Dennis Kearns, Raymond Odum, Katie Dyer, and Faye Howard are a very important few on an enormous list of supporters and volunteers who made, and continue to make, Labs for Kids possible. UAB Science Mentors and volunteers give hundreds of hours of their time each year creating, promoting and implementing science outreach programs. From kindergarten to Junior College we are committed to improving critical thinking and science understanding. Almost all Labs for Kids Mentors, past and present, have come through the UAB Biology Department. UAB’s Department of Biology outreach partnerships and science education efforts are some of the most valuable assets in our community. Go Blazers!


Note:
Labs for Kids is structured in a way so it can be implemented as a partnership between any university and school system of comparable size and quality to UAB and the communities we currently serve.



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