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Science  30 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5744, pp. 2177
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5744.2177



New Students, New Study Show Kinetic City's Expanding Impact

When blizzards and record snowfall threatened to paralyze the Boston area last winter, it would have been easy for kids to spend their Saturdays warm at home, watching TV. But at one Roxbury neighborhood center, the phones would ring with calls from worried kids or parents who hoped that their Kinetic City club would meet in spite of the weather.

Bob Hirshon with several happy members of the Kinetic City after-school science club.

For Adreenne Law Hampton, the center's youth director, their excitement was just one sign that AAAS's after-school science club was special. Now a new report offers further proof: Not only does Kinetic City improve science understanding in 2nd- through 5th-grade students, but it improves reading and writing skills, too.

Local Kinetic City organizers “knew they were getting a science program that children loved, that was interesting and entertaining and fun,” said Shirley Malcom, head of Education and Human Resources at AAAS. “What they didn't know was that it also supported their reading and writing… It's a matter of stealth learning.”

As students return to school this fall, new clubs are opening in Texas, Tennessee, Florida, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. More than 30 new clubs are set to open in Louisiana, most funded by the state's Department of Education, though the start could be delayed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In all, Kinetic City now counts about 130 clubs in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Developed with major funding from the National Science Foundation's Informal Science Education Program, Kinetic City debuted in 1994 as a children's radio drama. Two years later it won a Peabody Award.

The old shows are still aired on satellite radio and some local stations, but Kinetic City today is geared more to informal after-school classroom settings and to the Internet. The guiding principle is that science, when taught through hands-on exercises, online games, creative writing, art, and physical education, is fun.

Students join the Super Crew—Keisha, Curtis, Megan, and Max—in a battle to save planet Vearth from a relentless virus known as Deep Delete. By teaming up to learn new science, they battle Deep Delete. The Kinetic City program has 16 missions, each with 2 weeks of activities, covering such subjects as planetary science, the human body, forces that shape the earth, and evolution.

The materials are based on the AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks for Science Literacy. The clubs meet once or twice a week, after school or on Saturdays during the school year.

The report by EduMetrics, of Leesburg, Virginia, studied 92 children in Washington, D.C., schools. The students were required to read a challenging passage about the rain-forest; then, pretending to be a creature who lived there, they had to write a letter to a desert-dwelling creature. The letter had to show that they understood the passage.

Before an 8-week engagement with Kinetic City, most of the children scored 0, and only two got top marks. Afterward, most completed the assignment satisfactorily and 28 children—30%—got top scores.

“That's a better outcome than you'll see in many programs expressly designed for reading and writing,” said AAAS senior project director Bob Hirshon, who heads up Kinetic City. “They're going to carry that to other school assignments, and to other things they do in life.”

Adreenne Law Hampton is excited to oversee Kinetic City again this fall at the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, part of the Timothy Smith Network for providing technology training to community residents.

“Last year,” she said,” after we had a Kinetic City project about the solar system, I heard students say: 'I'm going to be an astronaut!' 'I'm going to the moon!' It's good to hear them say that.”

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A Debut and an Award for “Healthy People” Project

With a new volume on biomedical research just about to launch, AAAS's Healthy People 2010 Library Initiative learned late last month that a 2004 booklet on asthma and allergies had been honored in the National Health Information Awards.

“Your Health: The Science Inside” is the sixth in a series of books published by the Healthy People project. Distributed for free through U.S. libraries, the books offer solid science insight to readers, particularly in low-income and minority communities.

The new booklet details the progress in biomedical research over the past 150 years—since the time before people understood that germs cause disease. It was designed to help readers think like scientists and take charge of their own health.

The Healthy People initiative began in 2000, funded by a $1.3-million Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Other volumes have covered HIV/AIDS, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other issues disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities.

“Asthma and Allergies: The Science-Inside” won the bronze award for a book in the patient education information class. The National Health Information Awards program, now in its 12th year, recognizes the best U.S. consumer health materials and programs.

Embedded ImageFor more information on the Healthy People project, see


Annual Election

Ballots for the 2005 election of the AAAS president-elect, members of the Board of Directors and Committee on Nominations, and section officers were mailed to all active AAAS members as of the 9 September issue of Science.

Notice to members affected by Hurricane Katrina: Because the U.S. Postal Service is not delivering mail to areas with zip codes beginning with 395, 396, 700, 701, and 704, members in these areas must contact Linda McDaniel at Lmcdanie{at} or by fax at (202) 371-9526 for a ballot.

Please return your marked ballot by 28 November. Ballots postmarked after that date will not be counted. If you do not receive a ballot by late October, contact Ms. McDaniel.

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