Robinson Community Learning Center
Since 2001, the University of Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) has functioned as an off-campus educational initiative of the President’s Office in partnership with Northeast Neighborhood residents of South Bend. Since 2010, the Department of Biological Science has partnered with the Robinson Community Learning Center to offer on campus K-12 educational opportunities in the biological sciences. Dr. Michelle Whaley, Teaching Professor and Assistant Chair, coordinates a summer and fall program with the RCLC to provide a variety of hands on experiences in biology.
This mentoring program has involved other faculty throughout the Biology department including Dr. Amy Stark (Director, DNA Learning Center), Dr. Nancy Michael (Assistant Teaching Professor, Neuroscience and Behavior), Dr. Rachel Novick (Director, Minor in Sustainability), as well as the Office of Sustainability, the Museum of Biodiversity, and the Freimann Life Science Center.
Biology Graduate Student Organization (BGSO)
The Biology Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) is a student run organization to promote social, institutional, and intellectual engagement between biology graduate students, biology faculty and the greater Notre Dame community. Since their beginning, the BGSO has been extremely active in K-12 educational outreach programs in the South Bend community through participation in classroom and on campus visits, NIRSEF science fair judging, Science Alive and many other events, including South Bend 150 Celebrations.
Science Alive!BGSO graduate students participate in Science Alive! at the St. Joseph County Public Library. Children and other guests were able to sample bacteria onto agar plates where pictures were taken and then posted online for the public to access at a later date. Guests also had available microscopes for viewing insects and other specimens and science trivia to win ND College of Science water bottles.
Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph CountyDuring the summer, graduate students visit the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County, bringing interactive and fun science workshops to the middle school-aged students. They learned hands-on about things like bacteria living on their skin, butterflies species living in their own backyards, engineering and materials science, and much more.
Center for the HomelessThe BGSO organized seminars at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend. Graduate students met with guests of the CFH to have dialogues about the scientific process, climate change, cancer, and diabetes.
Bringing Science to LifeGraduate students developed a science education program for grades K-6 called Bringing Science to Life. This program is designed to provide a hands-on science experience that expands upon the current working knowledge base of science accrued in the classroom. BGSO worked with the Center for the Homeless, St. John’s the Evangelist Catholic School, Swanson Primary Academy, Prairie Vista Elementary, Twin Branch Elementary, Northpoint Elementary, the South Bend History Museum, and Niles Community Schools STEM Club. During the on campus visit by Northpoint Elementary in May. Over 75 3rd grade students and parents were fully immersed in biology education by hands on experience with the DNA Learning Center and Microscope Education (with "Bringing Science to Life" and "Cells and Cancer").
The Notre Dame Biology Club is fighting to restore sight to the 10 million Americans currently suffering from blindness, including those in our own South Bend community. The principal fundraising event for the Notre Dame Biology Club is the VisionWalk, an effort in cooperation with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, a national eye organization that has already raised over $450 million for the development of treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases. The VisionWalk saw its 5th anniversary in September 2014 with more than 150 participants, raising over $10,000. The Notre Dame Biology Club also serves as a liaison between students and faculty in the Dept. of Biological Sciences, holding a number of events such as the Research Networking Dinner, which in its 6th year had over 200 students and faculty in attendance. As an academic interest group, the Biology Club works to engage with other undergraduates and create a sense of community through general meetings and special events such as Rat Dissection Night, Game Watches during football season, and the College of Science Formal.