About Us

 

AiS Teachers and Site Managers are all volunteers who share a love of science and working with students to share that fun and excitement. Volunteers are recruited from staff of our host science institutions (NIH, NIST, Lockheed-Martin, etc.), from local universities and science corporations, and from parents of the AiS students. Most teachers volunteer for only one Saturday, but some return for several sessions or teach a particular class at different AiS locations.

Short term goals of AiS include:
- stimulate natural curiosity about science
- teach various scientific principles
- demonstrate the fun of experiments, deductions

Long term goals of AiS include:
- immunize students against “science-phobia”
- show how to use scientific thinking in everyday life
- introduce the possibility of science careers

AiS teaching philosophy:
We strive to arrange for students to actively participate, and to do real science when possible (not just look at diagrams or make models). For instance, in our session on internal combustion engines, students do not just see diagrams of pistons and cams, but they take apart a lawnmower engine to see the real components. In our discussion of the heart, the students get to hear their own hearts and touch the valves and chambers of a cow’s heart. We also teach some science theory, enlivened by discussions and live demonstrations showing evidence supporting the theory. We like students to be able to take home some products of their “adventure” (when possible) to stimulate discussions and recall of what they did in class. The overriding philosophy is that the classes should be fun.

Session topics:
AiS has no set curriculum for classes. Most topics depend on the interest of volunteer teachers, and sessions are vetted by Site Managers to make sure that they meet the goals of the program. Many areas of science are covered, including subjects in physics, chemistry, biology, math, and engineering. Site Managers also recruit volunteers to teach specific topics requested by the students. On a given Saturday, most AiS sites have two or more sessions running concurrently, and each student chooses which session to attend. Some sessions make use of commercial science kits, while others use materials assembled by teachers and paid for by AiS.

Independent projects:
For the last few months of each AiS season, the students work at home on an independent and individual science projects. We encourage students to choose projects that ask a question, involve designing and carrying out an experiment or series of observations, and drawing conclusions relating to their original question. After these projects are completed, students present a short (5 – 10 minute) summary of their investigations, illustrated by slides. These presentations occur on the last Saturday morning of Adventure in Science, known as Parents’ Day. These presentations provide the students with an opportunity to speak before a friendly audience interested in what they have to say.

Adventure in Science and 4-H Youth Development Program:
AiS was founded independently of 4H, but it has benefited from its affiliation and partnership with 4H program (at the University of Maryland Extension) since 1990. 4H provides our administrative framework, along with the benefits of a nationally recognized organization. For more information, see http://www.maryland4h.org/Join4H.cfm

History:
Adventure in Science, Inc., was started in 1973 by the late Dr. Robert Nash in the basement of his home. The program started with eight neighborhood kids and his topics ranged from astronomy to materials science to simple machines. Dr. Nash, a former NASA Goddard scientist who had been a professor at the University of Virginia’s Materials Science Department early in his career, recognized that his own children were not always learning about the fun side of science in school, and he decided to start a hands-on program. For the next seven years, Dr. Nash did exactly that.

By 1980, the program had outgrown Dr. Nash's basement. A larger facility was necessary to accommodate the interest of local students. Through conversations with Dr. Tom Charlton at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which was then known as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), Adventure in Science moved to the NIST Gaithersburg campus on Saturday mornings. Dr. Charlton, with help from Dr. Sam Kramer, initially brought 30 students into the program. These two site managers solicited both the interest and the support of Dr. John Lyons, who later became the NIST Director. This support from NIST Directors has continued through the present Director, Dr. Patrick Gallagher. The NIST program has been run continuously since 1980 with a succession of site managers, with the program growing to 70 students in the intervening years.

Adventure in Science has continued to expand to other locations in Maryland since the program moved to NIST. These have included Bechtel Corporation, Hewlett Packard, COMSAT facility, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Bethesda, Fort Detrick, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Coppin State University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. There are currently four other active sites, besides NIST. The first of these opened in 1993 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Utilizing the site managers connections within NIH, many of the topics are taught by specialists there, leading to some unusual learning experiences not found outside of medical school. The second opened in 2003 at Lockheed Martin, through the support of the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, and the security staff at the Gaithersburg facility. The third opened in 2008, at Urbana Middle School, through the strong support of the principal. The fourth opened in 2012, at the Shady Grove campus of the Johns Hopkins University.

Outside of Maryland, another Adventure in Science, Inc. site was started at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1988. The MSU site manager made contact with Leah Hoopfer of 4H, who two years later became a senior manager in the national 4H organization. Because of her interest in adding more science to the 4H program, plus the experience at Michigan State University, discussions were opened between 4H and Adventure in Science, Inc. Thus, in 1990, Adventure in Science, Inc. signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Maryland 4H program and Montgomery County, MD. This enabled 4H to handle the administrative side of Adventure in Science not just in Montgomery County, MD, but throughout the United States of America, easing the spread of Adventure in Science throughout the country.