How the Yeshiva University ACS Student Chapter Developed
a Successful Middle School Outreach Program
Yair Saperstein knew he was on the right track when he opened his e-mail inbox one day last January. As president of the outreach committee within the ACS student chapter at Yeshiva University (YU) in New York City, Saperstein had sent out an e-mail
request to the student body at YU to participate in an educational outreach activity at a local intermediate school during
the spring of 2011.
“I expected to get maybe six or seven responses,” recalls
Saperstein, “and ended up with an enormous amount of
replies— about 70.” Soon the chapter had a virtual army of
people who wanted to help.
The Take-Home Lesson: Why the
START Program Was So Successful
• Chapter members and the faculty advisor met with the
principal in person to discuss the proposed program.
• Chapter members visited the classroom on a regular basis
so that the students looked forward to their visits.
• Presentations were at the appropriate level for students.
• Chapter members formed teams that developed and
taught a particular module so responsibilities were shared
by all rather than shouldered by only a few members.
• Teams created lessons that could be reused with another
group of students.
A rapid START
“We’re a relatively new chapter, and basically still in our infancy,”
explains Ari Cuperfain, ACS student leader and president of YU’s
ACS student chapter. “The 2008–2009 academic year was our
first year as a real ACS chapter, and we knew that the Physics
and Engineering Club had successfully put on physics shows at
a local elementary school and a middle school in the past. So we
started off doing magic shows at the elementary school as our
chapter’s major activity. But this year, things
really took off with our START (Students,
Teachers, and Researchers Teach) Science!
After casting the net for potential
volunteers and hauling in 10 times the
amount of volunteers they’d
expected, the next
step was to figure out how to put their people power to good
use. “It was our chapter’s faculty advisor, Raji Viswanathan,
who had the idea of splitting the volunteers into different
sections,” recalls Saperstein, “so that each group could teach
a two-week module. That way, we wouldn’t overwhelm the
school when our teams arrived.”
Work with what you know
To choose which topics and concepts the project’s vol-
unteers were going to help students explore, chapter
members began with topics that they already knew
about, having explored them in intro classes for
chemistry, physics, and biology. “When