Connect diverse K-12 students and active researchers to engage in community-based education and research.
Youth excited and interested in socially-engaged critical thinking and research, recognizing their ability to produce valuable knowledge, and feeling individual purpose and community connection.
- Community: bringing together people of diverse backgrounds, skills, and interests to create inclusive research and learning environments
- Collaboration: working with teachers and researchers to ensure multiple approaches and voices are heard
- Engagement: learning by doing; using approaches that emphasize hands-on, inquiry-based activities
- Interdisciplinarity: demonstrating the value and interconnectedness of multiple disciplines in a way that does not privilege one over another, and illustrating how social concerns and science influence each other to promote real change
- Integrity: ensuring our research, as well as the character of our staff and volunteers, meets the highest standards of excellence
Science and Social Studies Adventures (SASSA) began as an informal K-12 educational outreach initiative in 2015. It continues to provide community engaged educational and research opportunities and is in the process of acquiring 501(c)3 non-profit status.
A mother’s passion for her children, education, and research, along with K-12 educators’ desires to bring more hands-on learning to their classrooms, are at the heart of SASSA’s creation. As a mother and full-time graduate student in anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Katrina Yezzi-Woodley was compelled to bring what she was learning and researching to K-12 students. She began visiting various classes throughout her daughters’ schooling. It was a wonderful experience for all, and she wanted to create something more lasting that would allow her to reach more children.
She had the good fortune of meeting one of her daughter’s social studies teachers, Chris Kestly, who after viewing photos from an annual archaeology-based event which gives students the chance to reenact ancient behaviors, could see her vision and facilitated a meeting with other teachers in the school. One of the science teachers, Beth Albrecht, joined Katrina and Chris and together they created SASSA to bring teachers, students, parents, and community resources together to enhance K-12 education.
In its first year, the SASSA in the Classroom program reached 600 students, which was an impressive start to a fledgling, volunteer-led program; it has now grown by leaps and bounds! To date (2019), SASSA in the Classroom has reached over 8,000 students at five schools, in all grades. We have involved approximately 30 Preparing Researchers for Engaging the Public (PREP) participants in these K-12 classroom teaching experiences. Our PREP participants come from seven different departments and fields in the social and hard sciences, but also represent the spectrum of human diversity and inclusion that exists in the world.
In 2019, Katrina Yezzi-Woodley and other SASSA leaders published a chapter on SASSA in the Classroom marking the start of SASSA’s publication record! (Katrina Yezzi-Woodley, Chris Kestly, Beth Albrecht, Paul Creager, Joel Abdella, and Katherine Hayes. 2019. “Science and Social Studies Adventures: Using an Interdisciplinary Approach to Inspire School-age Children to Become Knowledge Producers.” In Public Engagement and Education: Developing and Fostering Stewardship for an Archaeological Future, edited by Katherine M. Erdman. Pp. 45-73.)
Our steady growth and the interest the organization is generating in the community demonstrates that there is a need for SASSA. Teachers and volunteers from the community, diverse students from various departments and universities, and foundations and institutions are helping SASSA to grow, diversify, and achieve its mission, and they are supporting us as we organize into a nonprofit entity.
Katrina Yezzi-Woodley, Chris Kestly, Beth Albrecht, Paul Creager, Joel Abdella, and Katherine Hayes. 2019. “Science and Social Studies Adventures: Using an Interdisciplinary Approach to Inspire School-age Children to Become Knowledge Producers.” In Public Engagement and Education: Developing and Fostering Stewardship for an Archaeological Future, edited by Katherine M. Erdman. Pp. 45-73.
Katrina Yezzi-Woodley, M.A., President, Executive Director, and Founding Member
Katrina develops and manages SASSA’s programs and volunteers, is expanding its presence in the community through extensive networking and partnerships with researchers and institutions, and is charting the future of the organization.
As a biological anthropologist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota, Katrina explores how meat-eating impacted human behavioral evolution. Her research focuses on how early humans were breaking bones for marrow, especially in a landscape where they competed with threatening, large-bodied carnivores for food resources. Katrina uses 3-D modeling, differential geometry, and machine learning to determine how animal bones were broken at archaeological sites and how to put them back together again.
As the parent of two wonderful daughters, Katrina has been volunteering in schools since her oldest started pre-school. Empowering young students, especially young women, by inspiring curiosity and active learning is a passion for her and she is thrilled to be a part of SASSA.
Katherine Erdman, Ph.D., Director of Operations
Katherine focuses on writing organizational materials, online/social media content, and SASSA’s eNewsletter; building relationships with our donors and supporters; and managing fundraising opportunities for SASSA.
Early in her career, Katherine was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of archaeology while studying both anthropological and Classical archaeology. Shortly after obtaining her B.S. from Grand Valley State University (2007), she ventured into the K-12 classroom and offered an Archaeology Day program to fourth- and sixth-grade students. She later obtained her M.A. (2012) and Ph.D. (2014) from the University of Minnesota where she specialized in the Iron Age and Roman period ritual practices of Gaul. While working toward her graduate degree, she taught with Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and ISD 728’s Active Minds, organizations which specialize in adult and community education. She recently edited a book, Public Engagement and Education: Developing and Fostering Stewardship for an Archaeological Future (2019), dedicated to archaeology education for audiences of all ages.
Chris Kestly, M.Ed., Founding Member
As a founding member of SASSA, Chris has and continues to help guide the trajectory of the organization. As a social studies teacher he provides guidance on aspects that relate to social studies content.
Chris has taught fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grades over the last 19 years in the Osseo School District. Traveling, reading, boating, biking, and building projects are among his favorite hobbies. He is passionate about helping students understand multiple perspectives and learning ways to keep them engaged. Chris works to include higher level thinking, art, peer interaction, literature and technology to enhance student learning. Northwestern College, St. Mary’s University, and Hamline University have influenced Chris in his passion for learning and teaching.
Beth Albrecht, M.Sc. IT, Founding Member
As a founding member of SASSA, Beth has and continues to help guide the trajectory of the organization. As a science teacher she provides guidance on aspects that relate to science content.
Growing up Beth was fortunate to live in many different places as a daughter of a Naval officer. She has lived in South Carolina, Italy, Michigan, Guam, Virginia, Florida, and Minnesota. In 1993, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Florida and married the man she met in Italy. They moved to Minnesota, and she began her teaching career in the Osseo School District. Beth has taught third-, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grades, and Gifted Education during her 22 years of teaching. During her teaching career, she earned her Masters in Integrating Technology in 2003.
In her free time she enjoys reading, working with a Boxer rescue group, and training her horse. She also has two daughters that enjoy horseback riding and helping with the rescue dogs.
Phyllis Messenger, Ed.D., RPA, Secretary
Phyllis works for the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota and as such, is highly connected with diverse groups within the community. She has graciously connected SASSA with individuals who have offered interesting and useful insights. A gifted grant writer, she has offered to assist SASSA in these efforts.
Nicole Johnson, Treasurer
Nicole is an accountant for Polaris and has generously offered to advise SASSA on budget and finance matters. She is also a parent of two K-12 students within one of the primary districts we serve and offers feedback about the programming from a parent’s perspective.
Katherine Hayes, Ph.D.
Kat is connected to many people involved in education and outreach in the Twin Cities metro and continually helps us to make connections with others that can advise or collaborate with SASSA. She is a well-established archaeologist who can help guide the trajectory of the archaeology programming. Additionally, she has been a strong advocate for the organization within the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota, and as a co-founder of the Heritage Studies and Public History program, she is helping to develop a partnership with SASSA.
Kat served as chair of the American Studies department at the University of Minnesota and is well-connected with the local, indigenous community. This is important given that much of the land in Minnesota is unceded land and we are ethically and morally obligated to acknowledge this and work within this paradigm. She can help us do this in a meaningful and respectful way.
Science and Social Studies Adventures (SASSA) has been growing since its creation in 2015. The following highlights the impact our organization has had so far, providing evidence of our success and potential for the future.