“What variables affect plant growth?” 
“What factors affect the direction a mealworm travels?”  
“What variables affect how much liquid a soil can absorb?” 


These are the questions participants of SciTrek ask when allowed to experience the process of science through in-class hands on science lessons. Over the course of 6-8 lessons each lasting approximately one hour, 2nd-8th grade students embark on a science experiment with the help of their teachers and staff/volunteers at SciTrek that maintains high levels of critical thinking to prevent activities from veering into “plug and chug” territory. Students make observations, design and execute experiments with control groups, analyze their data, then present their results in a poster session, and in the process, learn to be scientists.  

Dr. Norbert Reich created SciTrek at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) to bring university students, lessons, and resources into the classroom to help teachers teach science. Undergraduate and graduate students from UCSB assist teachers, allowing for each small group of 3-6 students to be moderated by an adult. A SciTrek volunteer will typically teach the lesson module the first time, then the classroom teacher will teach it every time thereafter. Each module designed by SciTrek creates opportunities for independent thinking when analyzing data collected from experiments designed by students and addresses a specific Next Generation Science Standard. SciTrek brings in all materials necessary to complete the module, with topics ranging from soil water retention to motion to chromatography. 

SciTrek offers a comprehensive online resource containing various module’s instructions and lab notebook for nonlocal educators teaching 2nd-8th graders. To learn more about SciTrek, read our interview with Dr. Norbert Reich, discussing aspects of SciTrek’s creation, maintenance, and future plans, or visit SciTrek’s website