Science on Display: GeoKids Celebrate Science Education

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (June 1, 2011) - More than 300 Philadelphia elementary school students who completed GeoKids LINKS, a hands-on science education collaboration involving Saint Joseph’s University (SJU), the Wagner Free Institute of Science (WFIS) and the School District of Philadelphia, will gather at SJU’s Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena for a year-end celebration on Wednesday, June 8, 10 a.m. -1 p.m. The students who participated in the program are from Gesu, Kearny, Meade and Reynolds schools.

GeoKids LINKS places SJU Graduate Fellows in Philadelphia classrooms to provide hands-on learning experiences in across-the-curriculum projects. WFIS educational specialists work with the Fellows to create and execute science lessons and projects. The program was founded by the WFIS on the belief that children have a natural curiosity about topics in the earth and life sciences and that early exposure to these topics can be an effective vehicle for increasing student interest in science, as well as learning in general.

“Our partnership with Saint Joseph’s University enhances the resources that we can provide to the students and teachers participating in the GeoKids LINKS program,” says Dana Semos, director of children’s education at WFIS. “Each of our organizations contributes particular expertise and knowledge to the collaboration, which combine to create a uniquely rich experience for all the participants.”

“Saint Joseph’s is committed to engaging its students in social justice issues as part of a rigorous college education for science students, and bringing hands-on science experiences to children who often do not have access to these resources fits perfectly with the University’s mission,” says Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., professor and chair of biology at SJU and one of the program’s co-directors.

GeoKids LINKS participants have been immersed in yearlong creative lessons and projects involving scientific experiments, educational field trips and hands-on activities, like raising and monitoring crayfish in the classroom. These lessons engage children in grades one through five, increasing their interest in science while strengthening reading skills, group cooperation and artistic expression, which in turn boosts their overall academic performance.

“Program outcomes are strongly positive and are documented by the children’s test score improvements,” says Snetselaar. “In addition, college student participants report improvements in their ability to explain scientific phenomena and an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards facing Philadelphia elementary school teachers. The year-end gathering is a fun way for everyone involved in the program to celebrate another successful year.”

The celebration will feature a certificate ceremony for graduating GeoKids as well as science-related games and activities. A display will showcase student’s work, including imaginary wetland species (fourth graders), books about farms and farm animals (third graders) and experiments with UV light and sunscreen (fifth graders).

This year’s celebration will also mark the ninth year of National Science Foundation (NSF) support of GeoKids LINKS. As funding from the NSF comes to its conclusion, program directors point to its successes:

  • 3,400 students have participated in GeoKids LINKS over the past nine years, learning about science in fun and engaging ways
  • 40 SJU graduate fellows have worked in the classroom and behind the scenes to make the program a success
  • 50 Philadelphia school teachers and 12 SJU faculty members participated in and out of their classrooms in meetings and workshops

While funding sources for GeoKids LINKS will change, the work accomplished over the past nine years will continue to positively impact science education and the lives of students who participate in the program, according to Semos and Snetselaar.

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Senior Associate Director, University Communications, 610-660-3240,

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