Hyattsville Middle School


Kids Excelling in Math and Science (KEMS) is an award-winning partnership among educators, engaged citizens, and culturally diverse students. The initial program location, at Hyattsville Middle School, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA, includes approximately 20-25 students and includes 10 mentors from diverse academic backgrounds. One mentor even brings along two small children, who benefit from mentorship from the middle schoolers — it is a system that pays instant dividends! Launched in February 2016, KEMS is in its third semester as an after-school enrichment program in which students partner with students in the International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia (ILAE) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The curriculum ranges over the “hard” sciences like biology, geology, paleontology, astronomy, and links them with policy. The thematic emphasis on doing science and using science to help solve societal problems comes directly from the students; indeed KEMS uses a participatory structure to ensure that students drive the content and that it remains responsive to their enrichment needs.

Hyattsville Middle School has supported the program enthusiastically, including direct encouragement by Principal Thornton Boone. The school will continue to work with University of Maryland (UMD), local NGOs and enterprises and DC institutions, such as the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS), Shagga Restaurant, ECO-City Farms, the Riverdale Farmers Market, and the Koshland Science Museum to create innovative curriculum programs relevant to the needs and resources of HMS and its neighborhoods. Students at Hyattsville Middle and ILAE schools communicate with each other through the internet, social media, and student-made videos. UMD graduate students (in the School of Public Policy) and undergraduate students (in International Development and Conflict Management and in Engineering) serve as KEMS mentors and role models. Our current mentors — evenly division of women and men — hail from India, Kenya, Pakistan, and the United States  -- conduct weekly sessions at HMS.

Activities encourage questions, exploration, scientific inquiry, critical thinking, and the application of scientific and math skills to real world problems. The theme for the first-half of 2016 was “Environmental Science and Food Policy” and the theme for the second-half  of 2016 was “Climate Change and Citizen Responsibility.” Our current theme is “Life and Technology on Planet Earth and Beyond: Science and Stewardship.” Students were given a micro to macro overview of the globe, beginning with The Sun and Solar System (see playlist for other topics). KEMS relies on local scholars and scientists to offer their time and provides positive engagement opportunities both for the students and the mentors. The program has garnered positive press coverage and received support from the City of Hyattsville, including Mayor Candace Hollingsworth