Afterschool Program Offers Community Science Talks

AROUND THE NEK - Have you wanted to know what all the fuss is about black holes, or why butterflies are so important to the environment? The Kingdom East Afterschool Program (KEAP) is opening its Visiting Scientist Talks series to the community.

KEAP was awarded a grant two years ago from Vermont Afterschool For All to expand its science, technology, engineering, and math programs to students in the Northeast Kingdom. The plan originally submitted for the grant flew out the window when COVID-19 hit rural Vermont, but the money was still used to create new offerings for students.

Drew Bush, STEM Adventure Co-Coordinator at KEAP, said that the afterschool program started in-person in November, despite students returning to normal classroom activity earlier in the academic year. Still, a lot of KEAP's activities remain online such as Zoom Clubs. In January, these clubs were expanded to whole families and community members within the northeast of Vermont. The Astronomy Club was one of the most popular. Bush said that over 100 Zoom accounts were logged on to some of the meetings, with multiple people tuning in per household. "Some of those households were just adults--there were no kids."

To supplement these clubs, KEAP launched the Visiting Scientist Talks series in late March. "We're kind of in this unique time period, or maybe hopefully out of it, where we can easily bring people in from far away who have these different expertise; to bring them in and really provide an opportunity for our whole community to engage with them," Bush said.

One of the Kingdom East School District's long-term goals is to be able to provide for the greater community and notjust the families they directly serve. Students from St. Johnsbury Academy, Lyndon Institute, Burke Mountain Academy, and Northern Vermont University - Lyndon have all been invited to attend the talks. Bush has also been posting links on Front Porch Forum to get more community members involved. "These talks are really meant to be inter-generational. They're meant for everyone."

The next talk is scheduled for Thursday, April 29 where Betsy Hernandez, a researcher at Princeton University, will present about galaxies, black holes, and Einstein's theory of relativity. On Thursday, May 20, Lauren Vonnahme will tour the American Museum of Natural History in new York City. The finally speaker is Christina Newkirk who is scheduled for Thursday, June 3. She will be speaking about the importance of butterflies. All talks start at 7:00 PM. To register, community members are asked to fill out a Google Form.