Volunteers are the life-blood of our organization We couldn’t do this with their devotion and assistance. We are happy that you are considering volunteering with us. Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Science Education Academy!

We Require Background Checks

Since we are a non-profit working directly with children, we are required by Pennsylvania law to have copies of the following background checks on file for each of our volunteers:

If you have lived in Pennsylvania for less than a year, you must also submit a Federal Criminal Background check:

Cost for Background Check

The total combined cost for these checks is currently $20 ($47 if the federal check is also required).

Please note that we only need to retain copies of these checks – you retain the originals which can be used for other volunteer organizations as well. Background checks are good for three years.

The background checks are good for 2 years and can also be used for other volunteer organizations as necessary.

What types of lessons/programs does SEA offer?

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.

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 fieldtrips 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 science 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.

What subjects does SEA cover?

SEA covers earth, physical and life sciences. This includes, geology, chemistry, engineering, physics, plant & animal biology, etc. If you remember doing it in grade school, we probably do that and more.

Why volunteer?

Volunteering with SEA is fun! Working with the kids is rewarding and exciting as you watch them learn. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly – volunteers can form friendships with other volunteers that extend beyond SEA. The time commitment is less than that required of other educational volunteer organizations and it’s just as if not more enjoyable. Worth it!

What is the time commitment? (and for each semester)?

We ask that students commit to at least 1-2 Saturdays each unit. This means 1-2 Saturdays in the Fall semester and 2-4 Saturdays in the Spring. Remember though, the lessons run parallel to the Philadelphia public school schedule and the third unit extends beyond when the academic semester normally ends.

Beginning each November, students (grades 4 – 8) can choose to participate in the citywide Carver science fair. Volunteers are needed to work with students, one-on-one, in the completion of their science experiments. Supporting a student’s science project is a 3 month commitment, up to 3 Saturdays per month, and 2 hours a session.

What do I need to do to sign up?

Each volunteer must submit copies of both an FBI and a Pennsylvania Child Abuse History background check. SEA will reimburse you for a portion of the cost of these checks. The background checks are good for 2 years and can also be used for other volunteer organizations as necessary.

Does SEA provide training?

SEA offers a new volunteer training and orientation Saturday each (semester/year?). This session is typically a Saturday morning at the SEA house and includes an introduction to the program, an overview of the subjects covered in each grade level, and a presentation by a certified, professional teacher discussing tips, tricks, and techniques to help you teach.

Does SEA provide lesson plans?

SEA provides lesson plans far in advance, so you have time to plan ahead and look up anything you’re unfamiliar with. Demonstrations include detailed instructions. Materials are all provided within the classroom and rarely need further preparation.

What is a typical Saturday at SEA like?

9:00-9:15 a.m. Volunteers arrive
9:15-9:30 a.m. Students arrive, eat breakfast; Volunteers check classrooms upstairs, confirm materials/classrooms are ready
9:30-9:45 a.m. Group welcome led by Jay or Danielle. Includes a brief science demonstration and introduces the word of the day.
9:45 a.m. Instructors escort students upstairs to classrooms, divided by grade
9:45-10:00 a.m. Students work on math problems
10:00-11:15 a.m. Starting off with a story, volunteers lead students through the lesson plan for the day. It may include an experiment, worksheets, a project, a group discussion, or even a trip outside.
11:15-11:30 a.m. Kids and volunteers clean-up – kids are sent downstairs to the main room while volunteers finish cleaning up the classroom
11:25-11:40 a.m. Each grade shares what they learned that day in a round-table discussion led by Jay or Danielle. We close by singing the “Scientific Method” camp song and passing out snacks.

Where do the students come from?

Students come from all over the city of Philadelphia. We advertise primarily in the local community because it is an area of the city where schooling experiences tend to be impaired by the impact of limited educational resources and standardized testing.

What is the student : volunteer ratio? What is the average class size?

The average class size is 5-6 students with a student : volunteer ration of 3:1. Larger classes will have 2 volunteers paired together to teach.

Do I need prior teaching experience?

Prior teaching experience is not required! Enthusiasm and a desire to interact with kids, however, is highly recommended.

Do I need to be a scientist? Do I need to know science?

Being a scientist is not required to volunteer. A strong knowledge and understanding of science is important though. Some of the concepts we explain to the students can be complex and volunteers need to understand the topic and be able to explain it in a variety of ways if necessary to help their students get it.

Determining Availability

If you need to reschedule your assigned date, please notify us at least 48 hours in advance. This way we have time to find someone else to take your spot. You will receive a reminder each week you volunteer the Wednesday before.