SynAPSE Educational Program

Stay tuned for our next visit to McNichols Plaza in the spring of 2019.  In the meantime, see our recent visits oOctober 19, 2018 and November 29, 2018.
We have recently established the Synergistic Activity Program for Science Education ("SynAPSE") designed for our University of Scranton research students to conduct learning activities at a local Scranton elementary school. The name derives from biological systems, where synapses (especially between nerve cells) allow individual cells to interact, communicate, and influence both their growth and survival; learning and memory formation involve the growth and long-term maintenance of synapses.  The program will focus on research students from the College of Arts and Sciences who are in STEM research laboratories.

Educational science engagement involves meaningful and intentional interactions that promote mutual learning between research students and members of the public, not just scientific knowledge, but also to the breadth of social practices, perspectives and world views.  Public engagement can provide a constructive framework for personal outlooks to be integrated with scientific expertise in decision-making contexts.  Scientists can expand the reach of their inquiry, and make it more relevant to society.

The McNichols Plaza offers a unique opportunity to provide a global perspective to our Scranton students.  Though barely 15 minutes away, the students at McNichols are uniquely diverse, with ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, language fluency, and life experience.  We therefore aim to provide our students with opportunities to engage diverse members of the public, and develop expertise in applying their knowledge to educate a broad audience.


This program aims to develop and increase student engagement in community scientific education, both to better prepare our students for a career that involves integration of community engagement in scholarly activity as well as develop their expertise in engaging a diverse group of community members.

Engagement of our research students in community educational endeavors enables our students to strengthen the intellectual and cultural connections between scholarly activity and public education.  Research and education must go hand-in-hand: research gives education a direction, while education gives research a purpose.  Thus, we aim to provide our students with organized opportunities to put their research into an educational context to help them develop a culture of service-integrated research work.

At the beginning of the fall semester, the Coordinators of the SynAPSE program will schedule two visits to the McNichols Educational Plaza in South Scranton.  The coordinators of SynAPSE will solicit participants from the different STEM research laboratories in CAS; as in the past, students who are not actively involved in STEM research may participate as well.  We will rely on the staff at McNichols to determine the appropriate students/grade level who would participate in the activity.  The activity will be designed to be conducted with a student assembly (i.e. the entire 4th grade class), where students move through various educational display stations in groups of 10-15.

In the spring semester, SynAPSE will invite the McNichols students to come on campus and conduct hands-on activities that require more in-depth student participation.  For these activities, SynAPSE students will set up six or seven different activities; McNichols students will select three different activities based on material that will be distributed to McNichols ahead of time.  When the McNichols students visit, they conduct the actual activities themselves under the supervision of our students.  The activities will include both learning how to do procedures as well as learning how to design experimental studies.

Research students who volunteer to participate will design an educational activity that is appropriate for the McNichols students.  Ideally, the activities will be related to the research student’s topic of inquiry, or to activities in the laboratory classes (but this is not a requirement).  Our students will design, construct, and deliver these different activities; they will also be encouraged to produce educational materials and resources that can be transferred to the faculty at McNichols.
For more information, contact Dr. George Gomez or Dr. Jong-Hyun Son.

To see details of each of our activities, see the links below: