• SUNY Afterschool FAQ

  • The State University of New York (SUNY) and the New York Academy of Sciences (the Academy) were recently awarded a $2.95 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to scale up a successful afterschool program in which SUNY graduate students and postdoctoral fellows mentor middle school students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The program targets students in high-need school districts.

    Who can be involved in this program?

    • Graduate students and postdocs from the following campuses are eligible for the fall semester of 2015: Downstate and SUNY Poly-Utica.
    • Community-based organizations or schools who run afterschool programs in the Brookly and Utica regions.
    • Middle school students who attend the affiliated afterschool programs/schools.
    • If you would like to volunteer for this program and you are in close proximity to Utica or Brooklyn, please click the appropriate link above to apply.

    For parents and students

    What is taught in this program?

    Young scientists teach different courses in genetics, math, and human body systems. Not all sites offer all programs. All of the courses are aligned with the New York State Scope and Sequence and are based upon hands on, inquiry based teaching and learning.

    Is this a tutoring program?

    No. This is a program that will provide extra exposure to science and math but is not designed to be a test prep or tutoring program. Many of the affiliated schools and organizations also offer tutoring programs and homework help.

    Is this for gifted and talented students?

    The program is designed to serve all kids within a program and is not designed to be selective.

    Do you have a program for high school students?

    We don't at the moment but many of our affiliated organizations have programs for high school students.

    For Graduate students and postdocs

    What is the role of a grad student or postdoc in the program?

    Graduate students and post docs serve as mentors for middle school students in afterschool programs. In order to become a mentor, you must apply, be accepted into the program and participate in a series of trainings. A three credit graduate level online course is also part of the program. You will then be placed in an afterschool program, likely with a partner, to teach 10–12 lessons over the course of a semester for approximately 90 minutes once a week.

    To hear more from young scientists who have served as mentors, check out the following links:

    • Meet one of our robotics mentors and his team by watching the video.
    • Listen to our genetics mentors explore a DNA relay race through this podcast.
    • Our robotics teams take on food safety at our annual robotics scrimmage in this podcast.

    Will I get paid?

    This is a volunteer program which means that you will not receive money for your participation. The program is open to foreign students who are not eligible to work outside of their approved visa.

    What is the time commitment?

    Graduate students and post docs must be able to commit to the program. The following is what is required:

    • One full day of training to learn the curriculum
    • 60–90 minutes of weekly instruction during after school hours for 10–12 weeks
    • At least one planning meeting with the after school provider
    • Participation in the graduate level, three-credit, online course
    • Complete the fingerprinting and background process (free)
    • Optional monthly check-in meetings with the cohort

    How do I become a mentor?

    Each campus will coordinate their own recruitment program and interested students should contact the following staff members at their campus:

    Brooklyn: Kristine Paulsson (
    Utica: Elizabeth Rossi (

    What can I teach?

    You will learn how to teach one of three curricula (genetics, math, or human body systems) that are designed to be flexible. You will work with your regional coordinator to adapt the curriculum to the students in your class.

    I've never taught before, should I do this program?

    Absolutely! For many students, this is their first time teaching and the program is designed to help you learn how to teach. In addition to the training, there is a lot of support built into the program including being paired with another scientist, support from your regional coordinator or colleagues when you need help and support from the staff at the afterschool program.

    Through this program SUNY students can earn three graduate level credits through an online class titled "Practicum in Teaching STEM and Mentoring Middle School Students". That course can be used to count towards the elective portion of your graduate degree, and will be offered over the Spring 2015 term concurrently with your time serving in the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Fellowship Program. As is standard with such coursework, you should budget 9 to 12 hrs/week to complete it, but since it is online the scheduling of that commitment is up to you. By the end of the semester you will gain an understanding of STEM pedagogy and mentoring, and that course grade will appear on your graduate transcripts. The tuition for this course is waived.

    Course Info: (EDU-660527) Practicum in Teaching and Mentoring in STEM (Graduate, 3 cr) Teaching the sciences includes helping learners to gain a better understanding of content knowledge, teaching methodologies and strategies, and the scientific process. Historically, science teachers delivered content with little regard for process, and thus learners rarely gained skills in discovery or appreciation of the power of the scientific model. In this online course the student will be introduced to the pedagogy and skills necessary to teach the sciences in formal and informal environments via an inquiry-based learning model. In addition to the online learning, each student will be assigned a group of K12 students and mentor them through a series of standards-based STEM curricula. Students who successfully complete this course will have gained skills that will be useful in their roles as scientists, teachers, role models, and mentors as they experience a rich multimedia, inquiry-based learning environment as their students would in their own classroom.

    I'm interested in a career in teaching, is this a good program for me?

    We think so! It's a great opportunity to test out teaching.

    Grant Support

    The Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program is supported in part by the National Science Foundation (DRL-1223303). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.