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Adult Role Models in Science

click for more information about becoming a scientific role model click to find out how to connect with role model volunteers click for more information about becoming a partner organization  click here to donate to ARMS

ARMS diagramComponents of the Program  

Program History

Learning Science Helps Every Kid

We know that children need science—learning science through inquiry helps develop critical thinking and self-efficacy, and it improves grades across the board. The evidence is clear.

We also know that kids are not getting enough science in school, and what they do get may not be effective. Sometimes the teaching methods don’t involve real inquiry, or the teachers aren’t comfortable with their own science learning.

Some children have access to science experiences outside of school, like hikes in the woods with their families or visits to science centers, but the ones who don’t have these experiences are likely to be the ones who could benefit the most. And the number of these kids is growing.

The ARMS Approach

It takes a village to raise a scientist (or science-interested adult). ARMS coordinates an ongoing community-wide collaboration around K-8 science education, bringing existing programming, resources, and stakeholders together to make a lasting impact.

This approach has enabled the creation of new science programming across Madison, and ARMS plays a key role in its development and ongoing support. Through trainings, courses, and other means, ARMS cultivates an ongoing corps of effective adult scientific role models who are central to existing programming and new initiatives.

Why Role Models?

Kids who believe science is for other people and not for them need more than an engaging science activity to change their minds…and their futures. It takes an adult scientific role model who knows and cares about them and can foster their enthusiasm for science learning and their belief that they can learn more.

­Potential scientific role models are all over—parents, classroom teachers, scientists, after-school teachers, college students studying science. ARMS helps them all become more effective at engaging children in science. If they are not already part of a school or program for children, ARMS connects them.

One role model can reach many children, especially over the course of time, so focusing efforts on role models helps multiply the impact of the program. Role models often become science education leaders in their programs and schools, facilitating positive change. Become a scientific role model

The Impact

Think of a single child spending a single hour doing science with an adult role model. Multiply that by 24,000 and you have some idea of the annual impact of ARMS.

The power of the ARMS approach is enormous—the ARMS collaboration has initiated and enabled up to 40 after-school science clubs each year, learning communities for teachers, a classroom volunteer program, dozens of Family Science events each year, and a middle school mentoring program with an annual city-wide symposium. ARMS has reached more than 5,000 people and trained more than 100 new mentors in a single year.

This award-winning program is being held up as a model nationally, and we hope the idea spreads. If you are in the Madison area, your organization or business can become a become a partner or sponsor organization. Individual donations are also welcome.

ARMS serves the Madison area only, but if you are interested in creating a similar program in your community, contact us.

Interlocking Components of the Program

ARMS Community-Based Learning Course and Student Organization: "Service with Youth in STEM" is a UW–Madison course for undergrads and grad students to learn how to engage youth from a diversity of backgrounds, cultivating scientific thinking and confidence around science. Students apply their learning as they work in the community, supporting after-school science clubs and other programming for K-8 children. The ARMS student organization connects current and past participants so they can share activities and ideas. Course info / Student Org info  


ARMS Trainings and Professional Development Workshops: Professional development workshops for after-school staff are a staple of the ARMS program. These tailored workshops, as well as regularly scheduled trainings for community volunteers, help build skills and understanding around science education and increase comfort with leading science activities.
Become a scientific role model  


ARMS Classroom Partners: Classroom teachers get individual support with this program, which matches them with science volunteers who provide planning support and help make science investigations in the classroom come to life. The volunteers aren’t just there for a day—they build relationships with the teachers and their students over an entire school year.
Become a scientific role model
Connect with role model volunteers  


Science Clubs (K-6): Engaging children in science needs to start early, before students decide once and for all that science isn’t for them. After-school and summer science clubs for K-6 children meet weekly to provide hands-on science activities that encourage observation and problem solving. After-school program staff lead the clubs alongside trained college student volunteers. The clubs bring science to the places children already are—after school and summer programs at their schools and community centers. This removes barriers to participation.
Become a scientific role model

Family Science Events: Students can show off their learning, and families can do science together at these community events, which include investigation, food, and fun. Special events for parents (with free child care) allow adults to explore and become role models of science learning. Schools and community organizations host the events, and the ARMS program provides a guide for organizers, activity templates, and assistance recruiting science volunteers to lead investigation activities. Family science events


Madison Middle School Science Symposium: ARMS matches trained science volunteers with middle school students interested in research. The volunteer mentors meet with students at their schools each week for several months, working on a real research project. Students present their research at a city-wide symposium on the UW-Madison campus each spring. Mentors often bring the students to their labs for a visit as well.
Madison Middle School Science Symposium  

ARMS Parents for Science: Parents who want to engage their children in science and support local science education can connect with each other and learn about resources and programs in the community via the ARMS Parents for Science Facebook page and e-newsletter.  ARMS Parents for Science Facebook Page / Subscribe to e-newsletter



The ARMS collaboration was initiated in 1990 as a partnership between WISCIENCE (then the Center for Biology Education) and the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison. It was the brainchild of Lyle Hill and Bob Heidemen, who had ties to both organizations. The original programming, which focused on classroom volunteers, was developed by Hill, Heideman, and Dolly Ledin of WISCIENCE. The Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison was the first organization to “adopt a school” through ARMS—Emerson Elementary, which is still involved with the program today.

Anna Courtier, PhD

Director of Community-Based Learning
Contact Info

(608) 265-5526


Room 104F

445 Henry Mall

Madison, WI 53706

I earned my PhD in geophysics from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and my BS in geology and geophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Before coming to WISCIENCE, I taught general education and geophysics courses at James Madison University, and later served as the Science Outreach Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
At WISCIENCE, I coordinate service-learning coursework for undergraduate and graduate students and oversee the service peer leadership students. I also serve as the director of the Adult Role Models in Science program (ARMS), which supports many partnerships between the university and surrounding communities.