Updated: Jun 28, 2022
CHICAGO, Illinois - (This article is a special guest post submitted by iCAN KIDS Illinois Youth Member, Ella.)
Ella Schaffer, a rising senior at Walter Payton College Prep, and a youth member of the International Children's Advisory Network, Inc.(iCAN) hosted medically-focused science and STEM seminars at By The Hand Club For Kids. By The Hand is an after school organization providing students from under-resourced neighborhoods with meaningful after school care. Ella has been volunteering at By The Hand as an academic tutor ever since her freshman year of high school. During the 2021/2022 school year, Ella attended high school remotely and lived with her grandparents in Tomaszow Lubelski, Poland. While in Poland, Ella still tutored students at By The Hand. Given the seven hour time change, she started at 12am and ended at 1pm!
Combining her love for science, medicine and education, Ella decided to host the seminars after noticing that not many By The Hand students had access to meaningful STEM- focused extracurricular activities. Ella’s siblings, Gregory Schaffer, a rising sophomore at Saint Ignatius College Prep, and Josephine Schaffer, a rising 8th grader at Immaculate Conception Saint Joseph School, assisted Ella with the seminars.
(From left to right.) Josephine, Ella, and Gregory .
The seminars which Ella planned and created, and led with her siblings, included a strawberry DNA extraction lab, a CPR module and a suturing practice. Students also engineered a circulatory system and respiratory system model. To finish it all off, Ella dissected the heart of a sheep, in which the students participated as well.
Heart dissection lab.
The activities allowed the middle school students to better understand health and biological concepts. They were able to create models that imitated the basic function of organs. Ella noted that, across the six week span of the seminars, the students opened up, became increasingly comfortable in asking questions, and gained confidence.
Student suturing a banana. Materials used for
constructing a lung model.
By The Hand students took a survey after each seminar. Of those students surveyed, 86% reported learning something new and 64.3% reported having an interest in STEM.
A majority of the students who go to By The Hand are from low-income families. These students attend Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Students attending CPS do not have access to many extracurricular activities, specifically those focused on STEM. Statistics show that, year after year, low-income students are drastically underrepresented in STEM careers of any kind. The seminars attempted to address this inequality.
By The Hand student Students at work extracting
practicing CPR. strawberry DNA.
Ella and her sister Josephine.
Inspired by her seminars, Ella created “The Aspire Kit”. The Aspire Kit links Chicago high school students with opportunities to inspire, mentor, and aid By The Hand elementary school students seeking to explore STEM fields. Through The Aspire Kit, interested students can host STEM-related enrichment sessions and seminars, provide academic tutoring, and participate in fundraising to benefit students at By The Hand. Visit the following website to learn more about The Aspire Kit. http://theaspirekit.org
Ella’s website, The Aspire Kit.