Science Pioneers creates innovative and supportive education activities that inspire and engage Kansas City area youth to use science and critical thinking skills in their everyday lives and future careers. Science Pioneers (SP) works to inspire and encourage young people to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies to meet the demands of global competition and acquire the skills needed for 21st century careers.
Since 1956, Science Pioneers (SP) has played an important role in supporting science education in Kansas City. This unique organization was founded by Dr. Charles N. Kimball, then president of Midwest Research Institute. He and other leading scientists and educators were dedicated to supporting youth who were interested in the study of science. The formation of Science Pioneers supplemented classroom teaching and gave students exciting opportunities to deepen and demonstrate their scientific knowledge. SP utilizes the resources of the corporate and academic communities to offer students and teachers experiences with real world scientists and engineers. Science Pioneers continues to host the area’s annual Science & Engineering Fair and provides education programs to an ever-expanding metropolitan region, responding to changes in society and the educational needs of students and teachers. Science Pioneers also serves as a clearinghouse for other science education programs, collaborating with and supporting the efforts of schools and other nonprofits throughout the area in order to further bolster science education in our community. Over the years, SP has expanded its programs to provide a unique range of STEM learning opportunities for students and teachers alike and reaches an average of 15,000 people each year.
In addition, Science Pioneers maintains a website where teachers and students can locate information about upcoming SP programs and register for these events. Website visitors can also find links to other science education websites, lesson plans, student resources, grants for the classroom, and local science education organizations. Science Pioneers is unique compared to similar organizations in other communities because it is a stand-alone nonprofit, not dependent on a single university or school district. This allows it to be inclusive and to respond to the needs of students and teachers throughout the region and on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri state line.
Science Pioneers’ (SP) achievements in 2013-14 demonstrate our ability to connect students with STEM learning opportunities across our area. The majority (87%) of the school districts in our seven-county area utilize SP programs. On average, districts participate in at least half our six major programs. Last year, we know at least 5,399 students and teachers attended our programs as participants.
These efforts reflect Science Pioneers' capacity to meet the challenges of STEM education in our community and the need to provide more opportunities to inspire the next generation to consider STEM career opportunities.
Our current needs include funding and/or pro bono resources to help accomplish the following crucial upgrades:
I want everyone to know I am thrilled to be the new Executive Director for Science Pioneers (SP). I was hired early in 2014 to replace the previous ED, who retired. SP is an amazing organization with a long, rich history and an excellent array of programs and services. Our staff manages to get a tremendous amount of work accomplished with minimal resources, which is a real source of pride. I keep hearing that Science Pioneers is one of KC’s best kept secrets – well, I think it’s time that we stop being a secret and ensure people know about our programs! We all know that there aren’t enough students in the pipeline to fill the growing demand for STEM professionals but Science Pioneers is here to help!
In addition to continuing our regular programming, one of the first major tasks is be to update our strategic plan this winter. The plan was last updated in 2011. We will host focus groups and conduct online surveys with all our stakeholder groups to identify strengths as well as gaps in programming across the community; included will be representatives from industry, education, philanthropy, parents, students and peer STEM nonprofit organizations. We believe true collaboration with and among all interested parties is the only way to address the pressing need for more and more STEM graduates. As the planning process unfolds, we will evaluate the need for changes to current programming or potential new program offerings to meet the needs of our communities. Research shows our area will need 80,000-100,000 more STEM professionals by 2018—Science Pioneers is well poised to help grow the pipeline of students who are engaged critical thinkers and problem solvers!
To aid our efforts in building students’ interest in STEM studies as well as their teacher’s ability to provide high quality STEM teaching, Science Pioneers needs an expanded revenue base from corporations, foundations and individuals. While economic conditions are always in flux, what Science Pioneers does cannot be neglected. The long-term health and viability of our community is at stake. Students need our help today, for they are our future life sciences, engineering and technology workforce—our efforts must be collaborative, constant and growing.
At the close of all programs, evaluations measure the likelihood of the course impacting their teaching and their projected use of any specific lesson materials. They ask past participants if they have incorporated any lessons from past courses and events into their teaching and if the teachers have witnessed any impact on successful student learning from the knowledge and techniques they have garnered from ScienceWise events.
Science Pioneers programs utilize the scientific expertise of the corporate and academic communities for the benefit of area students. More than 850 volunteers served as mentors, judges and presenters last year. As our flagship program, The Greater KC Science & Engineering Fair is entering its 64th year and annually draws over 1,300 students. Science Pioneers has increased its emphasis on teacher professional development, because good science teachers provide the keys to both science literacy and development of our future scientists, technologists and engineers. ScienceWise Professional Development for Teachers includes a kickoff with a hands-on workshop, a program of 24 courses for teachers and a Teacher Resource Day. Science Pioneers also employs a School Services Coordinator to aid districts in analyzing their professional development needs and developing programs to meet those needs. This staff member works to meet the challenge of keeping personnel in school districts aware of the many opportunities for teachers and students that Science Pioneers offers. For students in grades 8-12, parents and teachers, Saturday STEM Seminars showcases hot topics in Kansas City STEM professions. Expanding Your Horizons for girls in grades 6-8 offers a one evening program of workshops, a keynote speech by nationally known female scientist, a planetarium show and an opportunity to experience Science City. On two Saturdays following the EYH evening in January, attendees and their friends can enroll in the EYH Expansion program. Working in small groups of 8 to 10, the girls learn first-hand what their female mentors do in their careers. New in 2013-14, Exploring Your Potential exposes urban core boys in grades 6-8 to the work of STEM professionals as they visit three companies--one in life science, one in engineering and one in technology. These programs will provide evidence of the effectiveness of our exemplary hands-on, inquiry-based approach. Tracking long-term results remains elusive, although hundreds of anecdotal stories prove the positive impact of Science Pioneers’ programming. There remains little doubt that with an estimated 50% of scientists and engineers nearing retirement, Science Pioneers’ mission is more important than ever before.
LeAnn Smith is Executive Director of Science Pioneers in Kansas City, an organization that works to inspire scientific curiosity and critical thinking in young people. LeAnn brings nearly 25 years’ experience in a variety of roles with nonprofit organizations. She has led organizations as Executive Director and Board Chair, was a Principal with CommonWealth Consulting and has volunteered with dozens of organizations over the years. Most recently, Ms. Smith was Executive Director for Medical Missions Foundation and prior to that COO for Smiles Change Lives. LeAnn is a highly experienced collaborator with proven success in aligning strategic community and business initiatives to drive change and strengthen the organization and its brand. A business/finance graduate from Kansas State University, LeAnn resides with her husband in Parkville, MO.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is at the forefront of national and regional agendas—anyone and everyone wants more STEM programs and opportunities to explore. One new opportunity for area students is our Youth Advisory Board. We now have 16 students from age 12-22 working with us to help determine program and communications options and priorities—what do students want and how can we utilize today’s technology to get it into their hands efficiently and effectively?
If America is to regain its global competitive edge, if Kansas City is to attract the thousands of new STEM professionals that it needs, then we need to attract many more young people into those professions. The programs offered by Science Pioneers must continue to demonstrate their ability to inspire and engage students and empower teachers to provide an environment that helps steer young people into STEM professions. Science Pioneers board and staff look forward to working with community stakeholders during our strategic planning process and identifying the strengths, gaps and opportunities for local STEM programming.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
The most recent fiscal year ended on June 30, 2014. Audited figures for the year reflect income of $416,372. The revenue growth over FY 2012 is largely attributable to the growth of investment return in the Science Pioneers Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. Total expenses for 2013/14 were $416,345. Together with the staff, board members are aggressively marketing the Science Pioneers' brand and programs as relevant, innovative and rigorous. Science Pioneers is focused on growing its resources to advance STEM education for youth from across our community.
Greater Kansas City Community Foundation
1055 Broadway Blvd., Suite 130, Kansas City, Missouri 64105
816.842.0944 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact | Privacy/Terms and Conditions