FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/7/2019
Science and Social Studies Adventures Looks for the Next Generation of Scientists
Organization Offers New Research Opportunities for K-12 Students
MAPLE GROVE, Minnesota: Science and Social Studies Adventures (SASSA), a youth-focused education and research organization, announced the start of two new free programs for K-12 students. The first program, Youth Engaging in Research Program, or YERP, pairs a young student with a college mentor who helps them conduct an original research project. Each project must use science to solve an issue in the community identified by the student. Participants in YERP will share their research with the public at a formal SASSA-sponsored presentation this spring. Beginning November 18th, any student from kindergarten to grade 12 is invited to apply to the program through SASSA’s website.
The second new program, SASSA in the Field, will accept applications in May 2020. This fieldwork-based program will provide students with the opportunity to participate in different outdoor research projects in the areas of biology, archaeology, ecology, or geology. The first project within this program is an archaeological excavation open to high school students. Over four weeks in the summer, students will learn from local archaeologists about Minnesota archaeology, participate in a local community-based excavation, and help study the materials they uncover. Family and members of the community will be invited to visit the excavations and learn about the student’s work.
SASSA has been bringing K-12 students and collegiate researchers together to engage in community-based education and research since 2015. Its two flagship programs, SASSA in the Classroom and Preparing Researchers for Engaging the Public (PREP), began in the Osseo School District as a small day-program developed by Katrina Yezzi-Woodley, a mother working on her PhD in Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, and Chris Kestly and Beth Albrecht, two of her daughter’s middle school teachers. The programs annually bring 30 undergraduate and graduate students into classrooms where they present hands-on learning activities to over 1200 K-12 students. Each activity, or module, emphasizes the connection of the hard and social sciences, rather than preferencing one over the other. The demand for SASSA’s innovative and interdisciplinary classroom programming has since expanded to other schools and districts across the Twin Cities metro.
With the success of SASSA in the Classroom, Executive Director and co-founder, Yezzi-Woodley believes now is the time to add to the organization’s programming. “Our classroom program regularly shows us that students have an interest in guiding their learning. YERP and SASSA in the Field will allow them to be more proactive. They can follow their interests and answer questions that are meaningful to them, all with the help of an experienced collegiate mentor from our PREP program.” PREP participants come from different departments and universities across the metro area and illustrate two of SASSA’s core values—interdisciplinary and collaborative research. Yezzi-Woodley says that, “Through these new programs and mentorships, students will see the value of collaborative research and how multiple viewpoints can be used to solve social problems, such as climate change.”
The new programs also have the added benefit of offering PREP participants with new forms of teaching and leadership experience. “We started PREP to help college students learn to communicate their research to non-specialists,” said Katherine Erdman, Director of Operations. “Each of our programs emphasizes open communication between researchers and the public. The YERP event and our ‘visitor days’ for SASSA in the Field are chances for our young researchers to not only celebrate their achievements, but also to use their own words to explain their research and why it is important to the community.” SASSA often speaks of their connection to the wider community on their website and social media platforms, which they say includes K-12 teachers, parents, students, administrators, and various research partners and institutions.
SASSA recently applied to become a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit in the state of Minnesota. Of the decision to expand, Yezzi-Woodley said, “The support for SASSA from parents, schools, students, and its volunteers has been amazing! Everything has grown very quickly and we regularly receive requests from educators to come into new schools and districts. This tells us there is a need for this inclusive and innovative classroom programming. We hope that formalizing the organization will open up more opportunities for partnerships and funding so that we can provide our services to more students and educators across the state.” Until officially registered as a nonprofit, SASSA will partner with their fiscal sponsors, Propel Nonprofits, to grow the organization and participate in fundraising events, such as Give to the Max Day on November 14th.
Going forward, the organization says it will use its new website and various social media platforms to continue connecting with the ever-growing SASSA Community, and will feature regular updates on the YERP and SASSA in the Field programs.
About SASSA: Science and Social Studies Adventures (SASSA) is a K-12 education-focused organization that connects college students, universities, and community resources, with K-12 students, parents, teachers, and schools to provide innovative, expert-led, hands-on learning experiences. SASSA’s unique approach integrates the social and hard sciences showing students how they are real and relevant to their lives. In its first four years, SASSA’s programming reached over 8,000 students across the Twin Cities metro. Their new youth-led research programs will energize even more local K-12 students to use science to solve problems in their own communities.
Contact: Science + Social Studies Adventures (SASSA)
Katherine Erdman, Director of Operations