Youth Explorations in Science is a hands-on science education program that gives students (grades 3-7) the opportunity to learn through hands-on life, physical and earth science experiments led by adult or young adult volunteers. The program creates enthusiasm for the sciences, wonderment in the world, and social and personal growth for elementary and middle school-aged children. YES stimulates children's enthusiasm for science while promoting scientific investigation and a sense of wonder in the world around them.
The basic formula consists of a small club setting in which four students and one adult or young adult (such as a high school or college student) are engaged in a hands-on science experiment or project. Projects draw from a variety of scientific disciplines and generate many questions focused on both scientific content and methodology. The atmosphere is casual, social, and emphasizes fun, while fully engaging the children in learning experiences. Students take their projects home after each session, where they may repeat the experiments or explain their scientific creations to family and friends.
Projects might include building electronic circuit games, balloon-powered cars, or astronomy boxes. Students might investigate the food web using owl pellets, solve crimes using paper chromatography, or experiment with flotation and density. They might explore the science of light and reflection as they build their periscopes or explore the physics of sound as they build thumb pianos.
The program does not require a formal classroom or school setting. The program can bring science education to students in non-traditional settings, such as YMCAs, boys and girls clubs, scouting organizations, and community centers.
The program is structured to take place on a weekly or biweekly basis. Volunteers are given a kit that contains detailed instructions, diagrams, and all necessary materials to build or complete that week's experiment. Instructions include questions that volunteers may use to stimulate inquiry and some answers that provide selected scientific content.
The adult or young adult leader does not have to be a scientist or have a technical background to lead their student team. The experiments and instructions are designed for the "layperson," thus not limiting volunteer participation. In fact, because the volunteer's role is to facilitate explorations into science and guide students by virtue of their experiences, non-scientists are capable of exploring the unknown with the students, and in fact, in some ways their natural curiosity adds value to the science experiments.
Youth Explorations in Science is fun. The program encourages teamwork and provides students with a sense of belonging in an environment that promotes creativity and develops self-esteem while helping them develop cooperative learning skills through group interaction. Students gain confidence in the area of science and take great pride in the successful completion of each project.
"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding of a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
- Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), English Physicist and Mathematician