How Reuben H. Fleet is Bringing Science to the Community
Barrio Logan 2nd and 3rd graders recently got the chance to get up close and personal with some sea creatures many of them have never seen. The King Chavez students gathered at the Barrio Logan Library where they touched seaweed and kelp and looked at sea urchins and sea stars while learning about San Diego’s watershed and how runoff from rain goes directly into the ocean right next door.
For Supervising Librarian Eileen Labrador, witnessing neighborhood kids experience the wonders of science outside the classroom for the first time makes it all worthwhile.
“You’ll see that aha moment for a kid where they’re so fascinated and excited,” Eileen said.
“Some of these kids don’t even go to the beaches in La Jolla, and so they’re touching these creatures and plants and that’s the beauty of this. We’re one of the agents creating a true community center with equal access to this information Logan Heights has been so deprived of.”
Bringing Science to the Whole Family
Reuben H Fleet’s 52 Weeks of Science is in its first year as a comprehensive neighborhood science program and already some of the founders are looking at how to replicate the program in other San Diego neighborhoods.
The Fleet’s CEO Steve Snyder said this labor of love is better serving the San Diego community by bringing together Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) organizations to work together on comprehensive science programming for one of San Diego’s underserved neighborhoods.
Community conversations with local leaders led the Fleet to bring science to the community, rather than expecting children and their families to make the trip to their science center in Balboa Park.
“People at the Barrio Logan meetings said we need to have consistent science curriculum and heighten the presence of the science that goes on in the community,” Steve said.
“Every single week there are free, publicly accessible science programs that are by and for people in Barrio Logan. The community was engaged in the idea and was part of it. This is a program of Barrio Logan.”
In any given week there can be multiple free science classes and events that appeal to everyone in the family from toddlers to grandparents. Eileen said that was intentional – engaging the entire family in science learning, not just children, is vital for creating a community of lifelong learners.
“You saw parents, grandparents, you saw caregivers – they were all so enthusiastic and bonded over this educational experience,” Eileen said.
“Not only are we encouraging and inspiring them to reach higher and maybe get an occupation in that field, but we’re bringing it to a level where they’re seeing science from a different viewpoint where it’s fun and engaging for all ages.”
Building Communities of Science
With the boost in STEM education programs across the country, getting Barrio Logan families and their kids to think of science as something they can do every day, as something not just for academics or professors, is one of the challenges the Fleet is facing head-on.
“For a lot of people, science is something that other people do – science is for others and not for you,” Steve said.
“It is broader than a person wearing a lab coat in a lab. It’s game developers and auto technicians. Everyone can be involved and you don’t have to get a nobel prize. Science happens here no matter what neighborhood you live in.”
The 52 Weeks program gets families thinking about science as accessible, applicable and above all else, fun. One favorite event is “Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar” where adults are invited to meet and talk with scientists at local breweries in Barrio Logan. Bringing local astronomers out with their telescopes for families to see stars through a lens was also a big hit, with more than 200 people turning out.
The early success of 52 Weeks of Science is a testament to the collaboration the Fleet has facilitated among different STEM groups, organizations and businesses in the San Diego region.
Steve said science not only affects everyone, but is for everyone, and getting the science community and families to change their thinking about how science affects the future of San Diego is vitally important.
“It’s a hugely important area, our economic prosperity is key to this,” Steve said.
“There are social and community issues we will face and if we are going to discuss them as a community we need to be able to think about them thoughtfully. There’s a real public interest in getting people engaged and involved in the power that science brings.”
The challenge is on between now and May 1 to raise $25,000 for the Fleet’s new pilot program, 52 Weeks of Science in Barrio Logan.
The 52 Weeks of Science in Barrio Logan program has been receiving a lot of well-deserved attention. In fact, the Fleet has received a $25,000 grant from the Parker Foundation with a unique matching opportunity to double their funding for the 52 Weeks of Science program in Barrio Logan. If the Fleet is able to raise an additional $25,000 from other supporters by May 1, 2016, the Parker Foundation will complete this challenge grant and donate an additional $25,000 to the Fleet. The result of the effort would be $75,000 for 52 Weeks of Science in Barrio Logan!
We invite you to consider making a gift of support toward this challenge. We also hope you will help spread the word to your friends and colleagues about this challenge grant. Thank you for considering a special gift to help the Fleet meet its challenge for the 52 Weeks of Science in Barrio Logan program.