CityScience

Earlier this year, my friend and former colleague Thor Snilsberg started a new nonprofit organization called CityScience to improve the quality and relevance of science education for urban students.  In their words:

CityScience is committed to raising the quality of science education and supporting environmental stewardship. By using the natural and built environments of cities as laboratories for active learning, we transform teaching to make science relevant and engaging for PreK-12 students.

Thor has been working hard all year getting CityScience off the ground, and I’m excited to see it start to gain traction.  I’m writing about it today because I just got a really great update & fundraising email from Thor on behalf of CityScience which inspired me to make a donation.  That email is the real subject of this post — I was really blown away by its clarity and sincerity — as an introduction to the organization and an invitation to become a supporter, I think it’s hard to beat.  Really nice work, Thor.

Pasted below is the email.  Read it, and then go make a donation to CityScience.

Dear Family and Friends,

Many of you know that 2010 has been an exciting year for me professionally.  As the founder and Executive Director of CityScience, I have enjoyed the challenges and complexities of starting a nonprofit to improve the quality of science education in urban school districts.  As important people in my life, I am writing to update you on CityScience’s progress and to seek your support.

Currently, the United States ranks 24th in international science scores; science is taught less than 3 hours a week in most schools.  Because these disparities are even greater in urban areas, CityScience strives to spark students’ interest in science while training teachers to make science more hands-on and connected to students’ lives.

As our mission suggests, cities are natural laboratories for learning and scientific literacy is a key underpinning of our economy and society.  To learn more about our unique programs, goals and approach I encourage you to visit http://www.cityscience.org.  Below is a list of CityScience’s 2010 milestones.  Based on the feedback on our work to date, 2011 will be an exciting year.

As family, close friends and existing supporters, I hope this note inspires you to make a tax-deductible donation to CityScience.  I look forward to visiting with you in the near future.

Best wishes,

Thor Snilsberg
_____________________________________________

2010 Milestones

Mission & Identity – As you read CityScience’s mission to the right, you will begin to see our hands-on approach to improving science education.  In developing our logo, we wanted to emphasize how thinking, problem solving and action are life skills learned through scientific inquiry.

Recent Programming – In our first major partnership, CityScience provided curriculum for a youth program in the newest National Park.  Seeing students develop a passion for geology, forestry, aquatic ecology and architecture was the highlight of the year for me.  Our work was recognized by National Parks Service, as being the most “deliberate use of curriculum they have seen,” earning us an invitation to present our approach to their educators.

501(c)(3) Incorporation– Thanks to the generosity of two attorneys at the law firm of Skadden Arps, CityScience earned its official nonprofit status June 19th.  I have been busy writing grant proposals and introducing the organization to foundations interested in supporting science education, project-based learning and the environment.

Board of Directors– Building a board that understands the importance and promise of science education is especially important to me.  CityScience is fortunate to have eight board members that all have advanced degrees in science, education, or urban planning.  Their expertise and commitment has been essential to helping me tackle countless start-up tasks.

In-kind Donations, Corporate Support & Fundraising– The in-kind support of Consider-it-Done Accounting, Durst Organization, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and All Star Moving and Storage have defrayed major overhead costs at key points.  Our first corporate sponsor, Carpet Cycle, is not only the region’s premier carpet recycler, the founder and CEO has become a great friend and mentor.  And while I have a lot to learn about fundraising, the list of individual supporters continues to grow.  Every donation is like a vote of confidence that brightens my day.

Office & Employees– CityScience moved into its first office in October.  We are walking distance from Grand Central Station, and I hope all of you have a chance to visit us soon.  Our expert instructors and teacher coaches deliver top notch programs and I look forward to continuing to develop our staff and pool of talented contractors.

Curriculum & Science Equipment – The curriculum CityScience inherited from the Center for the Urban Environment (CUE) includes fifty subjects and well over two-hundred lesson plans that get students outside to learn science.  Developed and time tested for thirty years in New York’s schools, parks and after-school programs, these programs made CUE the largest environmental educator in the five boroughs before it closed in 2009.  While it was a capital project that sank CUE, the programs are exemplar and it is an honor to be chosen to carry them on.

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