We hope to stir the students’ interest in science while simultaneously strengthening their observation, logic, and communication skills. Now in our 8th year of operation, SEA has graduated 4 classes from the program. We provide older students and program graduates mentorship to participate in the citywide George Washington Carver Science Fair as well as access to our STEM pipeline through participation in initiatives at the Franklin Institute.
SEA is currently offering a one hour virtual program on Saturday mornings open to students from elementary to high school. Each session is for 3 weeks and is focused on one topic. Students hear about exciting research from prominent scientists and learn about key concepts through activities done easily at home.
SEA offers weekly Saturday lessons which coincide with the city’s public school system calendar. The year is split into three academic units: Fall (Earth Sciences), Winter (Physical Sciences), and Spring (Biological Sciences), with each grade studying age- and grade-appropriate topics within the unit. This program is currently on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to our weekly operations, we provide mentorship for students in grades 4 and above who wish to participate in the city-wide George Washington Carver Science Fair. Project planning begins in the Fall with the Science Fair taking place in late February/early March.
We also provide supplementary programs throughout the year. In the past, these have included the Science Carnival, Women in Science, Philly to Lesotho Exchange, summer field trips to Johnson Pond, the NBC weather station, and we end each of the three science units with an outside demonstration from the city’s diverse scientific community. The latter events have included presentations by the Academy of Natural Sciences, NBC, local musicians as well as access to a heart dissection from a local city physician.
Rev. Jay Gardner serves as the Minister to Youth and Children at the White Rock Baptist Church of Philadelphia. In addition he is a lab manager in the department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania. It is with access to these two arenas that he along with members of the university and community were able to develop the Science Education Academy to provide a hands-on experience to the children of West Philadelphia.
Rev. Gardner earned his B.A. in Biology from the University of California at Berkeley. He worked in the pharmaceutical industry in R&D and process development for 15 years before coming to the university. In addition he earned his Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and has served as a solo pastor for several years and because of his love for children began to serve in youth ministries. He has developed programs for science and reading and has served on public and charter school boards. He is devoted to the nurturing and education of children with the belief that if given opportunity and exposure by the 4th grade they will have a successful academic career and grow into conscientious adults
Dr. Danielle Haney is a Health Scientist at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) where she designs health education programs across heart, lung, and blood diseases and develops national partnerships. She is a former AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Institutes of Health-NHLBI. As a AAAS Fellow, Dr. Haney oversaw the launch of the institutes’ strategic plan, reorganization of health education outreach and women’s health grant portfolio management. She is a former consultant in medical education where she created numerous train the trainer programs and scientific communications materials for health care providers and patients. She received her PhD in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania where she studied the disease progression of HIV in adolescents. During her time at Penn, Danielle realized that graduate students could make a profound impact on children in the West Philadelphia community. Therefore, she collaborated with Rev. Jay Gardner, community leaders and a group of graduate students to create the Science Education Academy, Inc. Dr. Haney earned her B.S. in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana where she was a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) fellow and student leader.
Dr. Carolina Pombo-Dhima is an experienced accounts manager at a scientific communications agency in the Philadelphia area. Dr. Pombo-Dhima uses her background as a scientist to lead a team of medical writers, science editors and project managers to help clients effectively communicate their message to target audiences. Carolina earned a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the university of Pennsylvania in 2015, where her research focused on understanding host-pathogen interactions by studying HIV infection. She was first exposed to biomedical research while earning her undergraduate degree at Barry University in Miami Shores, FL, where she had the opportunity to participate in the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program. Carolina has been involved with the Science Education Academy since 2008, first as a teacher volunteer, and later as a member of the organizing committee. She is a strong believer in the importance of a science literate community, and the importance of exposing children to science at an early age. She has been a strong advocate of science education at all levels, and is dedicated to help children explore the wonders of the world around us through the scientific method by hands-on experimentation. She is eager to use her management skills in her role as program coordinator to help SEA reach new heights.
Dr. Ciara Gimblet-Ochieng is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studies the immune response to viral infections. Originally from Tampa, FL, Ciara moved to Washington, DC to attend Howard University where she received a B.S. in Biology in 2010. In 2017, Ciara completed her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Ciara has volunteered with the Science Education Academy, Inc. since 2011 and has been a part of the organizing committee since 2015. Learning and discovering ways to improve human health through scientific research has been a thrilling journey for Ciara. For her, it is refreshing to see young students get excited about science. She believes that scientific engagement at an early age is imperative to fostering curiosity and scientific exploration in the community. SEA provides invaluable opportunities for children in the community and Ciara is glad to be a part of the organization
Ph.D. Molecular Biology and Genetics
Dr. Scata received her B.S. in Biology from the College of William and Mary. After graduating, she worked as a technician at Yale Medical School first in a bacterial genetics lab and then in a cancer research lab, where her passion for research was fueled. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from the University of Pennsylvania. She moved from studying skeletal muscle development to basic and translational cancer research at Penn and at Hershey Medical Center.
Kim is a great believer in the power of STEM programs to harness the innate curiosity of young children. SEA Philly does a great job of giving children the tools to ask and answer questions about the world around them. She’s very excited to be part of this wonderful program.
Dr. Atlan currently works at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as a R&D Product Development & Supply Informatics Expert, where she analyzes large and complex digital data for informed decisions regarding the research and development of medicines. She is also in the Future Leaders Program, which is a competitive three year rotation program that prepares its fellows to be effective leaders. Prior to GSK, she obtained her PhD in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied pediatric brain trauma. As a doctoral candidate in 2014, she met Danielle Haney (co-director of Science Education Academy) and began teaching science lessons to grade 3 on Saturday mornings. The program made such an impression on her that she joined the SEA board. Her undergraduate degree is from Johns Hopkins University in biomedical engineering, a time during which she also taught science to children
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – a good understanding of these subjects is critical for numerous job opportunities. Much of the job growth in our current economy and for the foreseeable future will occur in STEM fields such as medicine, chemical engineering, information technology, computer programming,, energy technology, etc.
The annual program runs in three units, each six weeks long. Lessons are each Saturday from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Special programs vary.
Unfortunately due to our limited operating budget, we are unable to provide science shows at this time.
The pressure to increase standardized test scores has led the majority of classroom instruction in local public schools to focus on Math and Reading. The impact of this shift on science education, compounded by high teacher turnover rates and limited access to high quality science instructors, means students’ exposure to basic science is minimal. The large student-teacher ratio further complicates the ability to engage in an application based science curriculum focused on experimentation.
SEA was founded to help supplement the Philadelphia public school science curriculum as a way to address these gaps. The program is a partnership between the White Rock Baptist Church and the Ernest E. Just Biomedical Society of the University of Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to expose students in the 2nd through 5th grades to the scientific method while reinforcing concepts with fun hands-on experiments, worksheets, vocabulary words, and field trips. In particular, we aim to (i) increase elementary aged students’ access to scientific professionals who are also from underrepresented minorities; (ii) provide hands-on activities to apply scientific concepts and (iii) act as a conduit for public science education
SEA is run entirely by volunteers and on grants and donations. If you are a graduate student and are interested in helping instruct the students, check out the Volunteers page. For others, if you are aware of funding outlets (i.e. laboratories on Penn’s campus with discretionary funs or allotments in their grants for community outreach dollars), please let us know. For donation information, check out our Give page.
Volunteers are primarily current and former graduate students from local Philadelphia Universities. Volunteers are required to submit background checks and are offered training prior to entering the classroom.
SEA students who participate in the weekly programs are between 6 and 11 years old (2nd-5th grade). Graduated students who have finished the weekly program and now participate in the science fair are between 11 and 13 years of age.
For information for prospective parents, visit our Parents page.