Squash and Science: A New Pathway to STEM Success

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, August 3, 2016
Contact: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, ginad@bu.edu

Squash and Science: A New Pathway to STEM Success

(Boston)–Boston University School of Medicine’s (BUSM) CityLab program has received a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The $1.3 million grant will support a new partnership that combines afterschool squash training and academic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) enrichment programs.  This collaboration will build upon CityLab’s success in providing rich laboratory-based STEM experiences that inspire and prepare young people to develop an awareness of scientific research and critical thinking skills that inspire careers in STEM fields.  City Lab has been funded by NIH for 25 consecutive years. Institutions of higher education around the country as well as internationally have adopted CityLab’s model of outreach in STEM education.

While CityLab has been available to all students, the current grant will focus on outreach to underrepresented groups in STEM. According to the experts, many urban minority middle and high school students lack exposure to authentic laboratory science experiences that can have a profound influence on their academic performance in school and ultimately their career trajectories. “We now have a unique opportunity to build a new program that will reach many underrepresented minorities students and position them for undergraduate STEM success,” explained Carl Franzblau, PhD, founder of CityLab and professor of biochemistry at BUSM.

The squash education movement for urban youth has been highly successful in preparing young students for success in college. However the current academic offerings of these programs focus on English Language Arts and mathematics with less preparation in STEM, therefore missing tremendous opportunities to develop interest in tSTEM fields.  CityLab is partnering with Fordham University and squash organizations in Boston and New York to enrich and enhance STEM education for students from communities underrepresented in STEM. Most of the students will be among the first generation in their families to attend college.

“We will build upon the laboratory investigations developed by CityLab to create engaging STEM experiences in the context of athletics and exercise physiology,” said Don DeRosa, director of CityLab and MobileLab and clinical associate professor at BU’s School of Education. “Our premise is to leverage student interest in exercise and athletics to engage students in learning STEM concepts and skills.”

“Our vision is to develop a national model for informal precollege biomedical science education that can be infused into a myriad of similar athletic/academic enrichment programs,” added Franzblau.

About CityLab
In 1991, BUSM pioneered CityLab, an innovative, biotechnology learning laboratory serving students and teachers in grades 7–12 to provide access to state-of-the-art biotechnology laboratory facilities and curriculum, unavailable to most school systems. Teachers from Massachusetts and neighboring states bring their students to CityLab where they solve problems by applying the same techniques and concepts of genetics and molecular biology used in research laboratories today. Since it began, more than 100,000  students have participated in hands-on, discovery-oriented investigations and thousands of teachers have attended workshops at CityLab or aboard the MobileLab that brings the laboratory directly to schools. Both CityLab and MobileLab have been successfully replicated both nationally and internationally.

About NIH SEPA Program
NIH’s SEPA program is designed to improve life science literacy throughout the nation through innovative educational programs. SEPA-supported projects create partnerships among biomedical and clinical researchers and K-12 teachers and schools, museums and science centers, media experts, and other educational organizations.