Today at Berkeley Lab

Lab Donates to CSU East Bay Institute to Support K-12 STEM Outreach

— By Theresa Duque

Berkeley Lab recently donated $15,000 to the California State University East Bay Institute for STEM Education’s Centers for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaborative Learning (CIRCLe) Labs program. Sponsored through the Lab’s Government and Community Relations office, this marks the second annual “signature” contribution to a community organization that shares the Lab’s values.

Berkeley Lab Director Witherell announced the donation on Nov. 8 at an after-school CIRCLe Labs math program at the Emeryville Center of Community Life

CIRCLe Labs focuses on strengthening STEM education opportunities for underrepresented K-12 students in low-income neighborhoods of the East Bay. Currently, their programs bring educators and local STEM professionals into Berkeley, East Oakland, Emeryville, and Concord to offer hands-on STEM demonstrations.

“We’re working with partners such as the YMCA and after-school programs with hopes to move into Richmond and beyond. With the Lab’s donation, we will be able to hire a student assistant who can help with the necessary programs and logistics,” said Trina Ostrander, executive director of CSU East Bay Institute for STEM Education. “We also hope that Berkeley Lab scientists and engineers will be able to volunteer at one of our after-school programs: Meeting real scientists has proven to be very motivating for our students.”

Witherell added, “CIRCLe Labs has a big impact on improving science education in East Bay schools, and we wanted to make a contribution to help them. We appreciate what they’ve done to support STEM education in the East Bay, and we’re pleased to be a part of this.”

At the event, he asked an enthusiastic group of second graders, “Who wants to be a scientist when they grow up?”

Of the approximately 30 schoolkids in attendance, nearly half of them raised their hands.

“Good, because we’re going to need your help to figure out some of the world’s biggest problems,” he said.

This past summer, CIRCLe Labs served more than 150 East Bay students each week, and is working to expand during the school year. They also hope to grow the program into Richmond.

“Studies have shown that the early development of math skills is an indicator of academic success,” said Mara Lockowandt, K-12 program manager in the Lab’s Workforce Development & Education office. “It’s exciting that the Lab is involved in this initiative.”

The Lab’s support of CIRCLe Labs is also in line with the East Bay Innovation 2.0 Action Plan, a strategy drafted by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (EDA) to promote STEM education and tech job growth in the East Bay, she added.

Current supporters of CIRCLe Labs include Bayer, the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, East Bay EDA, and Wareham Development, among others. Congresswoman Barbara Lee is also a supporter of the program.