Senior Scientists and Engineers: STEM Volunteer Program

Program Description

In 2004, the Senior Scientists and Engineers (SSE) and AAAS formed the AAAS/SSE STEM Volunteer Program to support K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, foster STEM literacy, and motivate students to pursue STEM careers.  

The Program recruits volunteers from the science, engineering, and medical communities in the Washington DC Metro area.  It is based on RE-SEED and TOPS, volunteer efforts launched in the 1990s.  The Program began in Montgomery County, MD in 2004 and expanded to VA counties of Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, as well as the City of Falls Church and Washington, DC.  115 volunteers participated in the 2013-2014 school year.  The majority of volunteers are retired, but the number of those still working is growing.

Facts About Volunteering

Volunteers:

  • Assist K--12 STEM teachers in the classroom throughout the school year
  • Commit to attending their schools for a few hours one day per week, if retired, or a few hours every two to three weeks if still working 
  • Attend a one-day training session in early September which includes a review of the Volunteer Handbook, presentations by current volunteers, and information from school district staff

Volunteer assignments are based on individual preferences, teacher requests, and commuting distances.

Once assigned to a classroom, a volunteer may:

  • Work with individual or teams of students to encourage questions about STEM topics
  • Offer insights on an aspect of a specific STEM field
  • Relate STEM to real world experiences
  • Be a resource for the teacher and students
  • Help teachers with science fairs
  • Develop activities jointly with teachers
  • Explore opportunities for field trips and other programs designed to enhance the learning experience
  • Advise students during lab experiments, scientific investigations, and STEM projects
  • Complement the teacher's presentations and add a practical perspective if needed
  • Work with teachers to enhance/improve course content
  • Make presentations based on your expertise when appropriate
  • Help teachers design experimental challenges to demonstrate scientific and engineering principles for the students

What Are Teachers and Volunteers Saying About Their Experiences?

"The volunteers have been instrumental in encouraging students to think about their future as scientists.  Their generosity is greatly appreciated.”

"There was an air of excitement and intellectual interest that even my reluctant learners responded well to. Having another perspective on making science relevant has the students' attention and they got a lot out of it. (Yes, it was FUN!)"

"The students (at first) viewed me as a real, living scientist who knew all. They have learned from me that one of the beauties of science is that it is a constant learning experience and that we, as scientists, surely don’t know everything!"

"I went to school…and had a blast! … I explained Mendel, his job, and how science begins with observations. In Mendel's case, how did pea plants with purple flowers produce offspring with white flowers? As in, 'WOW! How did THAT happen?'"

"Dealing with students and with the teacher is…rewarding as they truly appreciate my presence and effort.  I was asked to talk during Career Day and many of the students have stopped me in the school hall to talk to me."

Watch the Videos

AAAS News Article (June 2013) 

Teachers and Volunteers Describe their Partnerships (Annual Meeting June 2014)

Cable TV Interview with Chemistry Volunteer and High School Teacher-Partner (Cable TV "Seniors Today" January 2014)