Program Details: Open to the public

Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community

The JILA Physics Frontier Center Partnerships for Informal Science Education in the Community (PISEC) Program provides opportunities for university mentors (undergraduates, graduate students, and post docs) to facilitate local primary school students, primarily under-represented minority (URM) students, as they explore pathways to science in a friendly, welcoming environment.

PISEC is implemented primarily through multiple long-term afterschool programs, enacted at our partner sites. We work with our community partners for 8-10 weeks to conduct weekly afterschool sessions where students engage in hands-on, inquiry-based physics activities from various curricula designed to encourage exploration of and excitement for science. Students work together with their CU mentors, building relationships with their more-skilled peers and engaging in the creation of Communities of Practice at the partner site. Each semester, PISEC recruits ~30 CU mentors to facilitate over 100 students at 3-5 main partner sites. At the end of each semester, students visit CU to tour JILA, explore their mentors' workspace, and share special projects created during the semester.

PISEC works constantly to improve and refine its pedagogical structure. New curricula are currently being developed to facilitate student exploration of 21st-century physics career skills (thanks in part to a generous grant from the CU Office of Outreach), and new partnerships and PISEC formats are also being explored to more fully realize the JILA PFC's outreach goals of providing first-rate opportunities for students to explore ways to access science. In partnership with the CU Boulder Physics Education Research (PER) group, PISEC also allows us to conduct cutting-edge research on informal science environments. We engage in collaboration with local researchers as well as partners at multiple sites internationally such as Michigan State University and the National University of Ireland in Galway. PISEC has investigated diverse topics: students' attitudes toward science [1] and communication skills [2], CU volunteers' ability to communicate science [3] and pedagogical practices [4], and others. Currently, PISEC research is focused on student engagement and objectives in PISEC and volunteer training efficacy.

If you are interested in exploring partnership with PISEC, or simply interested in learning more information, please contact the PISEC Director, Mike Bennett, at the email listed below!

[1] R. Wulf, et al. "Impact of informal science education on children's attitudes about science." AIP Conference Proceedings. Vol. 1289. No. 1. (2010).
[2] R. Wulf, K. A. Hinko, and N. Finkelstein. "Promoting children’s agency and communication skills in an informal science program." PERC Proceedings 2012 (2012).
[3] K. Hinko, J. Seneca, N.D. Finkelstein, Use of Scientific Language by University Physics Students Communicating to the Public, PERC Proceedings, 2014.
[4] K. Hinko, P. Madigan, E. Miller, N.D. Finkelstein, Characterizing pedagogical practices of university physics students in informal learning environments, Physical Review Special Topics: Physics Education, 2016

This is a public program. For more information, please visit the program website.


In Colorado

  • Boulder
  • Longmont

Program Partners

Supporting This Program

  • Casa de la Esperanza
  • Colorado and St. Vrain Valley MESA
  • EXPAND Program, Boulder County
  • Family Resource Schools of BVSD
  • SparkFun Electronics

Sponsoring Units

Arts & Sciences, College of

  • Physics, Department of
  • Research Institutes & Centers

    • JILA

    Program Contact

    Mike Bennett, Ph.D.
    Director of Educational Outreach and Research

Program Categories


  • Diversity
  • Education (K-12)
  • Physical Sciences
  • Physics
  • Science
  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)

Program Types:

  • After School Activity/Instruction
  • Field Trip
  • Public Lecture/Demonstration
  • Summer Program - General Public


  • At-Risk Youth
  • Children & Youth (outside school)
  • Minority Group(s)
  • Students - Elementary School
  • Students - High School
  • Students - Middle School
  • Urban Communities

We do our best to accurately represent CU’s outreach programs and services, but they are subject to change and may no longer be active in a community. Please contact the program directly for current information.