Program Overview

Our Background

Founded in 2010 by Professor Nandini Trivedi, Dr. Marci Howdyshell, and Michelle Richard, Scientific Thinkers was an initial partnership with one teacher that over the following years gained both the support of additional teachers, multiple schools and the Center for Emergent Materials. Today, Scientific Thinkers is a partnership between the Center for Emergent Materials (CEM) at OSU and three Columbus Elementary Schools. Through the Scientific Thinkers program, undergraduate and graduate students from OSU STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) departments work with the first through fifth-grade science and mathematics teachers at the elementary schools to develop and teach hands-on science lessons to first through fifth-grade students. Everyone involved benefits from participating in this program.

Through the engagement with undergraduate and graduate students and faculty, our aim is to give the elementary school students an opportunity to learn what it is to be like a scientist and think like a scientist, giving them confidence in their own abilities and thinking skills which they will use in and out of school.

The Goal of the Program

This program encourages first through fifth-grade students to always be curious and ask questions about the world around them. They gain confidence in themselves and their scientific abilities through interactions with scientists and exciting hands-on science experiments.

The teachers are given resources, in the form of ideas and supplies, that help them continue to integrate hands-on science into the classroom.

The undergraduate and graduate student volunteers gain unique practice at communicating scientific information to those outside the field. They also have an opportunity to reach out to the Columbus community and motivate the next generation of chemists, mathematicians, biologists, engineers, physicists, and physicians.


Why Join Scientific Thinkers™?

Scientific Thinkers was designed to benefit the local Columbus community by cultivating interest in STEM fields and topics in elementary school children. The program is specifically aimed to reach children of backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEM majors and fields. There are two populations that Scientific Thinkers™ reaches at its partnered schools:

  • Under-represented minorities (URM, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, or American Indian) in STEM
  • English-Language Learners (Students that do not speak English as their first language), also underrepresented in STEM

Scientific Thinkers volunteers also come from a wide variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as majors and areas of study. The goal is for the volunteers to demonstrate that anyone can meet, think like, and be a scientist, regardless of who you are or where you come from. By volunteering, you are upholding the mission of Scientific Thinkers and encouraging local kids that they too can be a scientist.


Estrada, Mica et al. “Improving Underrepresented Minority Student Persistence in STEM.” CBE life sciences education vol. 15,3 (2016): es5. doi:10.1187/cbe.16-01-0038

LaCosse, Jennifer et al. “A social-belonging intervention improves STEM outcomes for students who speak English as a second language.” Science advances vol. 6,40 eabb6543. 2 Oct. 2020, doi:10.1126/sciadv.abb6543

Funding and support for Scientific Thinkers are provided in part by the Center for Emergent Materials at The Ohio State University.


Join Now!

Scientific Thinkers New Membership Application

Scientific Thinkers New Membership Application

Upon submitting your application, you will begin to receive email updates regarding volunteer visits, trainings, and orientations. You will be required to attend a mandatory orientation prior to volunteering. To remain an active member you must attend two volunteer visits per semester.

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