1361 Amsterdam Ave Ste 340
New York, NY 10027
1361 Amsterdam Ave Ste 340
New York, NY 10027
Biobus’s Biobus is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: Minority, female and low-income pre-K–12 and college students throughout New York City
Number of participants: 60,000 among all programs
Location: On the BioBus parked on school grounds during the school day (over 100 NYC schools visited) Frequency/Duration: 45-minute sessions (the BioBus can remain parked at a school for 1 or more days in order to serve as many students as the school would like; cost goes up for additional day(s); the Bus can see a maximum of 6 classes per/day of 30 students max, or about 180 students in a single school visit).
Eligibility Criteria: Most schools served are in low-income communities. No requirements to qualify.
Curriculum: Aboard the BioBus, scientist-teachers lead science lessons that follow New York State grade-level learning objectives and teach general skills of science inquiry and process, such as knowing how to make and understand an observation and how to develop and test a hypothesis. Lessons are tied to what students are learning in class as much as possible.
Outcomes: The organization has measured significant changes in students’ attitudes toward science after spending only 45 minutes on the bus. Students in a 12-week after-school program displayed a similarly significant shift toward identifying as scientists. And the demand for mobile lab programs is outpacing what BioBus can supply at this point, according to founder Ben Dubin-Thaler.
Students may have the opportunity to continue programming at summer camp as well as Pursue (paid internships for high school and college students) and Explore (8- to 12-week programs at schools and community centers incorporating more research practice), all held at BioBase Harlem at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute or the BioBase Lower East Side location.
The paid internships allow students to develop a science research project while mentoring younger BioBus students. Interns also benefit from the social capital that comes with the organization’s network of scientists, who often guide interns toward research opportunities and college programs.
Partnerships: Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC), Lower East Side Ecology Center, NYU Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC), Billion Oyster Project, BrainNY, Greater NYC Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week, Columbia SEBS (Science and Engineers for a Better Society), Earth Day NYC, Girls Prep, Harlem Week, HypotheKIDS, Imagine Science Films, Lowline Lab, Maker Faire, Math For America, New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), New York City School District 1, NYC Department of Education Citizen Science Program, NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, RockEdu (Rockefeller University Science Outreach), World Science Festival
Sources of funding: Mixed (City Council, DYCD, NYS Assembly and numerous private donors)
What makes the program stand out? Science labs are something of a luxury in New York City public schools, and BioBus is helping fill in the gaps. “We can go to schools [in low-income communities and/or that don’t have labs] and provide them with an $85,000 microscope and change that landscape in a really radical way,” said founder Ben Dubin-Thaler.
K–5 students might use microscopes to understand the basic biology of the shrimp-like animal Daphnia, while middle and high school students could compare their own cells to the Daphnia’s using video microscopes. Students learn the general skills of science inquiry: how to make and understand an observation, and then develop and test a hypothesis.
What do participants need to succeed? “One thing [the city] could do is live up to their own rule: students are supposed to have labs in school. It’s a state requirement and the city does agree in principle, but we need to make the investment to make sure [that it’s actually happening],” said Dubin-Thaler. One possibility could be “passing a resolution saying we must; students must have these experiences and we must figure out a way to make that happen.”
What does the organization need? Direct funding and/or more funding for schools. A major challenge is, “How do you scale supply to meet the demand? Our mission is to work with marginalized communities who don’t have the [resources],” said Dubin-Thaler.