ARYA RAJESH & SPOORTHI MARADA
For most students, creating an organization during high school can cause additional stress, but students Arya Rajesh (11) and Spoorthi Marada (11) are an exception. The two created Steps to Science in the fall of 2020, which is a nonprofit organization that allows elementary school students in, especially underprivileged areas to get a free science education. Teaching younger children different subjects requires more interactive guiding activities to be used. The courses in the organization are not just lecture-based but are also hands-on. This way the young students can process exactly what they are learning throughout the lessons.
“We split the lessons into different science fields like chemistry, physics and biology,” Rajesh said. “We do two lessons per area and then an experiment to apply what they’ve learned. Afterward, we do a review like a Kahoot game.”
The co-creators wanted to give elementary students the opportunity to explore the subject of science more deeply than they might have been able to with virtual learning.
“It’s a fun way to get elementary school students into science and provide a way for them to get hands-on experience in science early,” Rajesh said. “A lot of the time when you get into higher-level sciences in middle school, that’s only when you start experiments. I think that’s a big part of science where you get interested in it, so starting at a young age and seeing these cool reactions is a great way to get insight.”
For Marada, the best part about starting the organization is being able to interact with the kids.
“I like being able to teach the kids because it’s really interesting and entertaining,” Marada said. “We like creating the lessons and everything and it allows us to be creative.”
Creating and running an organization comes with challenges, including creating engaging lessons and keeping a steady number of members. Rajesh and Marada have endured many obstacles like these and more in order to keep their organization going.
“Some challenges are the legal aspects and getting more students enrolled, which can be difficult because we know kids don’t want to sit at their computers for a while,” Marada said. “The main thing is trying to promote teachers to contact [other] teachers and let them know what we’re doing. Parents sign up, but sometimes they can’t commit. It’s a bit tricky to navigate, but I think we’ve handled it.”
Rajesh feels accomplished that she has been able to not only pursue her love of science but also expose others to the world of science.
“I’m glad I can teach young kids and get them interested in science at a young age,” Rajesh said. “It’s honestly nice to know that I can spend my free time helping some kids in my community.”
Teaching through the organization has allowed Marada to show that science is as equally important as other subjects in school and should have more time dedicated to its teaching.
“It’s just extra enrichment and knowledge for them,” Marada said. “Especially because in elementary school, teachers usually focus on reading and math, which are important, but we want to push science a little more. Even the state standards don’t cover that much, and a lot of times teachers don’t even get to what they’re supposed to cover. If we teach it in a fun way, they’ll be more likely to pursue science for longer before it’s too difficult and give up.”
There are many different inspirations for people in career fields. For Rajesh, the pandemic opened her eyes to new inspiration in the science field.
“I’ve always been interested in science and it’s an awesome field,” Rajesh said. “Whether it be medical [or] things like that, you can find ways to explain things or create new things like the vaccine for example, which is awesome. In general, all of the scientists who worked this past year to try to find a vaccine and the health care professionals who continuously work inspire me.”
With Steps to Science, accessible teaching has made an impact on children and has opened them up to new possibilities and future career paths that they might not have dug deeper into if not for Steps to Science.
“Kids are usually really energetic and show positive responses when they enjoy something, and I know from our lessons that they like what we teach them,” Rajesh said. “A lot of times high school students take things for granted when they’re learning because we have so many classes. When they learn things like artificial intelligence, they’re like ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’ so it’s awesome to see how their young minds see things.”