ESSYI: An Exemplary STEM program

December 19, 2014

Welcome back to our STEM Series:  Recognizing STEM Exemplars.  In this series we are highlighting summer programs that offer engaging, exciting and empowering STEM programming for students in our area.   Read more about the STEM Exemplar program here.   This installment focuses on the Environmental Studies Summer Youth Insitute (ESSYI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.


The Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute (ESSYI) at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) is a two-week, college-level, interdisciplinary, academic enrichment program for talented high-school students from around the world. ESSYI attracts students from a variety of settings across the U.S. and in recent years has had students from Spain, South Africa, Columbia, Greece, France, China, Senegal and Korea. The program introduces students to pressing environmental issues from a wide variety of disciplines. Toward this end, the ESSYI utilizes tools, techniques and technologies found throughout Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines and helps students understand that successful solutions to environmental issues will not come from a single field. The central goal of the program is to empower students with the confidence to change the world and to help them visualize possible career paths.  Students leave the institute with a better understanding of themselves, the environment, their academic opportunities in college, and potential career aspirations. Those who perform well in the program also receive college credit.

Outdoor learning is a key component of the EYYSI program

Outdoor learning is a key component of the EYYSI program

Throughout the ESSYI, STEM disciplines perspectives are integrated as the foundation for exploring environmental problems. Students conduct scientific research on the HWS Scandling (a 65-foot research vessel on Seneca Lake), in streams, quaking bogs, in the Adirondack Mountains, and in the Colleges’ science laboratories.  Participants explore the ways in which quantitative data can be used to monitor changes in the environment and discuss the how STEM disciplines serve as the backbone for understanding environmental issues. In order to investigate our surroundings from multiple perspectives – and develop tools for understanding our relationship to the environment – students engage with STEM partnership organizations (such as the SUNY Adirondack Ecological Center and the and Adirondack Interpretive Centers) and are exposed to a wide variety of regional expertise. This type of engagement also includes travel to a local landfill (a repository for many communities throughout New York State) and a trip to an organic farm that participates in community-supported agriculture. Students examine the complexity of environmental issues from ethical and philosophical perspectives through the investigation of sustainable options that consider geographic location, economic status, materialistic necessity, and political stakeholders. Students explore specific examples of how environmental issues have been dealt with in the past and learn to use multiple ‘STEM lenses’ to develop sustainable solutions for the future. The program culminates with a four-day trip to the Adirondack Park where students use their newly acquired skills to work collaboratively and address a specific environmental challenge.

In an effort to engage students from under-represented populations, ESSYI routinely partners with both private and non-profit organizations to provide high-achieving students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds with tuition scholarships. These organizations include the HWS Finger Lakes Institute, New Jersey SEEDS, Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera, The Kent Cook Foundation, The Schuler Scholar Program and Christodora, Inc.

Students explore Seneca Lake aboard the HWS William F. Scandling

Students explore Seneca Lake aboard the HWS William F. Scandling

ESSYI is unique among summer pre-college programs in that its focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues and the complexity of potential solutions through a varied STEM curriculum. By connecting students with over 15 college faculty from a myriad of disciplines (within the sciences, social sciences, humanities and the arts), ESSYI empowers students in ways that catalyze real personal growth. Students find specific topics, sessions and ideas that resonate with them individually. At the same time, they are exposed to other ideas and ways of thinking about environmental issues that broaden their perceptions collaboratively. Environmental problem solving is rocket science and ESSYI is an excellent first step towards a sustainable future.

For many ESSYI students, scholarships have played a significant part in their ability to attend the program. Click here for more information on ESSYI scholarship opportunities.

For more information, visit the program’s website or fill out a request for information.

Brad Muise is the Associate Director at ESSYI and is responsible for the logistics of the program.  He has a varied-background in several environmental health disciplines for both academia and industry. 

Dr. Silverstone Goes To Washington

May 28, 2014

Bill Nye at USA Science and Engineering festival

This spring, I have had the privilege of attending two major STEM events in Washington, DC: The US News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference and the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The first conference was a gathering of business and education leaders. It included a session organized by STEMx, the 19-state national coalition that is sponosred by Battelle. STEMx also held a reception so that members could get to know our counterparts from other states. While there I met up with other NYS STEM Hub leaders and we discussed the possibility of holding a statewide convening here in the Finger Lakes next fall.

The second event was huge free science fair for kids of all ages. Bill Nye the Science guy was there, as was Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST Robotics. The event was huge, covering two floors of the gigantic convention center, which stretches over four city blocks.

Sara presenting at the Biodrill Exhibit

Dr. Silverstone  presenting at the Biodrill Exhibit

Mostly I attended not to sit in on the sessions, but as an exhibitor for a small educational start-up, BioDrill. As a vendor, I got to hold a series of conversations with many attendees and spent time visiting the other exhibitors. One such exhibitor was the National Science Foundation, where I ran into some old friends.

hands on exhibit: holding a human brain

In addition to showing off our science education kits and equipment, we gave hands-on demos on creating batteries from fruit and potatoes. It was rewarding to see the parents reveling in teaching their kids, or learning along with them, how to make a circuit. Seeing people of all ages light up with a smile at seeing as tiny little LED light being powered from fruit was a lot of fun. Several parents recalled doing this experiment (often it was the “Potato Clock” variation) and were thrilled to share it with their kids.

Some of the exhibits featured opportunities for kids and parents to experience new things for the first time together, such as holding an actual human brain.

Although it was as loud, busy and exhausting as Disney World, the Science and Engineering festival is highly recommended for parents who want to share their enthusiasm for science and engineering with their families. There was fun for all ages and it is all free. We are fortunate to have our own Imagine RIT right here in Rochester, but if you are looking for a real adventure and something very special to do in Washington DC, this is a great event.

Sara Silverstone is President of Brockport Research Institute, Vice-President of Research and Development at BioDrill Technical Solutions and Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub. In her spare time, she plays ice hockey.

Get your crazy, cool green on at the 9th annual Cool Kids! ECOFEST!

April 10, 2014

EVERY one of us is a steward of this planet we share!

A small list of what there is to do at ECOFEST!

A small list of what there is to do at ECOFEST!

Green is a verb! Sustainability–a lifestyle! Learning is FUN!
But you don’t have to invest thousands in solar panels or grow your own organic food from heirloom seeds to “go green”! 

Cool Kids! ECOFEST–is on a mission to prove: we’re ALL green! And practicing sustainability can be a complete blast!
With over 60 exhibitors converging on the campus of Genesee Community College–both inside and out–we’re excited to bring the BEST of WNY’s green scene to families everywhere–for FREE!

Explore erosion (and get a little wet!) with Rochester Museum and Science Center; dig fossils at Penn Dixie Paleontological’s booth; shop for recycled international art gifts at One World Projects or dive into a nonstop kids arts fest with GCC’s Education Dept! But dont’ stop there—check out the live owls, exotic wildlife stage shows, Green Grab doorprize giveaways, tree seedlings to the first 250 participants, make origami helicopters, egg carton airplanes, enjoy Abbotts, yogurt samplings, the Big Bag Bash, and so much more! All FREE! 
Crafting Fun at 2013 Ecofest!

Crafting Fun at 2013 Ecofest!

Join us this weekend!

April 12, 2014
10 AM – 2 PM
Genesee Community College, Batavia NY 14020
Sponsored by: Student Activities
Free! Open to all ages!

But Cool Kids! can even make recycling a way-too-fun-win-win for all! Bring us your old bikes and bike parts, “nonfabric” furniture for re-sale (to benefit Habitat for Humanity), old sneakers, paperbacks, eyeglasses, worn American flags and inkjet cartridges to recycle! For EVERY item you recycle with us-we give you a raffle ticket! And another chance to win a brand new mountain bike or other prize!!! How cool is THAT?!
So clean house! Bring your stuff! Bring your Cool Kids! Bring your group!
Recycle! Re-learn! Have fun! Four HOURS of nonstop fun!!

And remember: EVERYBODY wins–when everybody’s part of the show! When all Cool Kids! steward the planet!!

For more info: or find us on Facebook/Cool Kids!

Steve Appleton is Director/founder of Cool Kids! since 1999. The family cultural event series’s mission is: “Everyone’s part of the show!” Cool Kids! is a quantuum leap from typical family shows—where we all watch a juggling show–clap–and leave. We pass out 600 juggling balls and have a juggling party! Everyone drums! Everyone tries science at Science Circus! Entire audiences do Adventure Yoga, Bollywood dance or make balloon animals!!  But don’t stop there! Cool Kids! also tackles big planetary issues like cultural tolerance, world hunger, environmentalism and world peace!  With kid-centric projects like Cool Kids! Ecofest! CAN-imals on Parade canned goods sculpture contests and Jump on the Cool Kids! Peace (origami crane) Chain–we actively become the solution! “We don’t like talking diversity,” says Appleton, “We do it. When everyone is included—that’s not only cool! That’s what peace feels like! What peace is!” Cool Kids! has series of free, family events in Brockport and Batavia. Since it started, it has hosted series that include over 1000 events in Corning, Rochester, and Albion NY.


An Ecosystem Balancing Lesson

January 23, 2009


The island of Macquarie, which is south of Australia and administered by the Australian state of Tasmania, is facing major “environmental devastation” caused by the removal of feral cats from the island. The island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Reserve, and a Tasmanian State Nature Reserve. It has all these classifications to give it the maximum protection possible. Regardless, species that are not native to the island are killing the native plants and animals.

Cats were killing tens of thousands of native seabirds, some of which are classified as threatened.  In a project to stop the birds from becoming extinct, cats were eradicated from the island after several decades of attempts. Now the rabbit and rodent non-native populations, which were being kept in check by the cats, have exploded. Rabbits are destroying the vegetation and the rats and mice are eating the seedlings, bird’s eggs and fledglings.

This is what happens when you meddle with the ecosystem, even with the best of intentions, without thinking long and hard, says the article. “The lessons for conservation agencies globally is that interventions should be comprehensive, and include risk assessments to explicitly consider and plan for indirect effects, or face substantial subsequent costs.”

Rabbits, rats and mice will start to get eradicated in 2010 to help the island and it’s native plant and bird species recover from the invasion that has lasted about a century. For more details go the the January 13, 2009 article by Michael Casey and the Sydney Morning Herald April 12, 2007 article.

This can be used when teaching the balance of an ecosystem in Intermediate Science and Living Environment Core Curriculums.

Other cases of ecosystems affected by nonnative species are in New Zealand, Hawaii, Pacific Islands, Aleutian Islands, etc.

Which cases do you know about?

Congratulations to Ellen Lloyd and Sampson the Turtle!

November 21, 2008


A couple weeks ago the RAC-CEMS had a booth at the STANYS Conference. At the booth, we asked you to nominate really great teachers for our Excellence in STEM Teaching Award. Anyone who nominated a teacher, was entered into a raffle to win a full membership in the National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) and a feature on the STEM blog.

And the winner is… 

Ellen Lloyd of Sodus Central Middle School; congratulations!

Ellen teaches eighth grade science and the Living Environment at Sodus while also counseling the Middle School student council and Science Olympiad team. Her students “ask lots of great questions and are always ready to investigate things together”. In addition to her classroom full of students, Ellen has a pet turtle named Sampson who recently taught the class about food chains by eating all the new snails. The eighth grade students are getting ready to dissect fetal pigs, which, according to Ellen, is one of the most exciting parts of the year!

We asked Ellen if she would share one of her lessons with the readers of the blog, and she decided on one of her favorite adaptation labs. Be sure to check out the lesson, and visit her classroom blog.

Once again, congratulations to Ellen Lloyd, and we look forward to featuring other area teachers on the STEM Blog in the future!