Upcoming Open Houses Aim to Show Employees a Way to Inspire Local Children

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer; photos by Richard Frederickson, staff photographer
Elementary Outreach Program volunteers teach a class at Walkersville Elementary School.

Elementary Outreach Program volunteers teach a class at Walkersville Elementary School.

This December, the Office of Scientific Operations (OSO) is hosting two Elementary Outreach Program open houses that will show NCI at Frederick staff how they can help educate local elementary-aged students about science.

This is OSO’s first year holding such events for the Elementary Outreach Program. According to program coordinator Cathy Cullen, education outreach specialist, OSO, there are several fun and informative activities in store for those who attend—including a chance to learn about the program, volunteer opportunities in local schools and communities, and ways to become involved.

The first open house will be held in Room D of Building 549 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on December 5. The second will occur the following week, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 12, and will be located on the first floor of the Advanced Technology Research Facility atrium. The events are come-when-you-can, and nonscientists and scientists are equally welcome.

For the past 18 years, the Elementary Outreach Program has allowed scientific and administrative volunteers from NCI at Frederick and its contractor partners to visit local schools and teach students about science through entertaining lessons and hands-on activities. It offers employees an easy way to give back to their community and foster children’s interest in science. The minimum commitment is just two days out of the entire school year—and a volunteer’s time can be counted as normal work hours if he or she obtains supervisor approval.

“Even though this is a small amount of time, the impact this has on students is huge,” Cullen said.

OSO also plans and prepares the lessons in advance, so volunteers have everything they need to teach even if they don’t possess scientific expertise. That helps to ensure that each class receives an engaging and age-appropriate activity.

The need for volunteers has significantly increased as the program has grown in popularity and size. This year, OSO plans to deploy the program in five elementary schools and establish new initiatives with middle schools; libraries; and underserved populations, including students who are minorities, homeless, or from low-income families.

“Once we visit a school, they want more and more,” Cullen said. “The more volunteers we have, the more students we can reach.”

All government and contractor employees at NCI at Frederick are encouraged to stop by one of the open houses to learn more about the program. OSO staff will be present to answer questions and provide information. Both events will also include sample lessons, so attendees can watch and test the format for themselves. Those who enjoy getting their hands dirty can complete several hands-on activities, such making “instant snow” and goo-based polymer worms.

For attendees who want to support the program and show children the fun in science, there will also be a chance to sign on as a volunteer.