The mission of iPRAXIS is to open the doors of science and discovery to new generations through innovative educational programming. iPRAXIS works to connect resources with under-served communities, allowing more opportunities in scientific enterprise for people of all backgrounds. iPRAXIS encourages the active participation in the sciences through advocacy and outreach.
Cordell stands next to his electrified field experiment from last year’s science fair
From Megan Hopkins-Doer, former Northwood Academy teacher and current iPRAXIS program director:
At iPRAXIS we are getting ready for the upcoming school year and so I am busy recruiting volunteers. As such, I would love if the announcement for volunteers could be put into the Frankford Gazette. This year, we plan on continuing to support the science program at Northwood Academy Charter school, as well as our other Philadelphia schools.
As background, we recruit volunteer STEM experts to go to our partner middle schools in Philadelphia to expose students to the STEM disciplines and increase their excitement for, and understanding of, science. We work with several schools across Philadelphia, including Cook-Wissahickon. This is a link detailing our impact over the years – https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8leo6ede8b8k3q5/mIxeBUOdwU?m
Last year we had 7 judges from various sources such as Temple and Penn graduate students, a Boeing engineer, and several judges from Thermo Fisher Scientific review and interview the students at Northwood’s Science Fair. Then volunteers from GlaxoSmithKline and Temple came weekly to Northwood to mentor the winners from the Science Fair as they prepared to compete in Philadelphia city-wide Science Fair, GW Carver. iPRAXIS also provided engineering experts to guide students in two afterschool engineering clubs: Future City competition and Junior Solar Sprint competition. In addition, iPRAXIS brought six presenters to Northwood to provide presentations that supported the curriculum and expanded the students’ knowledge of potential careers. At one of these presentations, John McNeil the CEO of the Eastern Regional Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and Dr. Richard Schmidt an oncologist, spoke to students about cancer and some of the treatment options. At this presentation, Mr. McNeil and Dr. Schmidt were very impressed with the level of questions the students provided and encouraged by the response they received.
The school year is quickly approaching and so I am currently in the process of finding volunteers. Our volunteers range from students from the region’s universities to PGW engineers to leading surgeons (such as Dr. George Spaeth of Wills Eye). I have attached several flyers with different types of volunteering opportunities, but our biggest need is for mentors. This year we will work with the following schools: Belmont Academy (W Phila), Cook-Wissahickon (Roxborough), Girard College (N Phila), Lea (W Phila), Martha Washington (W Phila), Memphis St Charter (Port Richmond), and Northwood Academy (Frankford).
I asked Meagan Hopkins-Dower how she thought iPraxis’ involvement with Northwood Academy’s science fair added a special value to the students’ education, here’s her response:
I have always thought of the science fair as a way for the students to explore science in their own terms and investigate topics that interest them, but are not necessarily covered by the curriculum. By being a home project, it is also a way for students to apply the information they gain in school to a real question of their own design. When outside scientists and engineers (from iPRAXIS) come in to judge and talk to the students, they give value to the students’ work. It changes the project from a school assignment to something that can be a point of pride for the students. As a former teacher, there have been multiple instances where several years afterward, students will contact me asking about their projects. Not only do the students think of their science fair projects as more important, but the iPRAXIS judges give advice for future projects and are ACTUAL SCIENTISTS who are clearly professionals and yet attainable to the students.
After Northwood’s Science Fair, selected students will work weekly with iPRAXIS volunteers (Scienteers) to refine their projects in preparation for Philadelphia’s city-wide Science Fair, George Washington Carver Science Fair, in March. The students work one-on-one with a Scienteer and are able to really make their projects more competitive. The Scienteers guides the students through each step of the scientific method. This is crucial as many families do not have the scientific knowledge to provide this high level of support for the students. Again, this process lends credeance to the student’s efforts as the Scienteer acts as a resource for the student and the student learns how continual evaluation is used by working scientists/engineers. While discussing the student’s project, the Scienteer also will discuss his or her career and educational background. This mentoring aspect of iPRAXIS exposes students to careers of which the students may previously have been unaware.
iPRAXIS also supports Northwood’s students by providing civil engineering mentors to help lead an afterschool engineering club. We coordinate guest speakers who range from University of Pennsylvania Cell and Molecular Biology graduate students to John McNeil, the President and CEO of the Eastern Regional Treatment Center Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The presenters come to Northwood and speak to the students about their careers, educational paths, what makes science so fascinating, and expose students to scientific topics that support the curriculum. Finally iPRAXIS has supported supplemental science curriculum by providing scientific materials and professional development to Northwood’s science teacher in the past.
Northwood Academy Charter School held it’s annual science fair this past Thursday at it’s annex in the former Saint Joachim’s school at Penn and Church. My father, wife and I stopped by to check out how the budding scientists were faring. I met with Meagan Hopkins-Doerr, former Northwood Charter teacher and current iPraxis program director, who guided me through the process that the students would follow. All students in 7th and 8th grade are prepped for science projects. Those that were able to attain a certain level of preparation were moved ahead to the school’s science fair.
Judging for the school’s science fair was coordinated with iPraxis, a non profit organization who’s focus is to improve science opportunities for underserverd students. According to iPraxis’ website, “science comes to life for kids when they get to learn by seeing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing science inside and outside of their classrooms.”
iPraxis coordinated with the school to link up Ph.D. candidate scientists to judge the competition and then mentor the winning students in each category weekly until the region wide George Washington Carver Science Fair hosted at Temple in early March.
I spoke with Cordell, an 8th grader at Northwood Academy, who’s science fair project this year centered around what can make an electromagnet stronger. He was excited by the opportunity to showcase what he learned and looked forward to the opportunity to compete.
Cordell showcases his project
It was great to the asset to the community that Northwood Academy has become and it was the first time in a couple decades that I was back in Saint Joachim’s auditorium since I graduated 8th grade. It seemed a lot smaller than I remembered.