KAST was started in 2010 by high school students at Richard Montgomery HS in Rockville, Maryland, after hearing about educational budget cuts affecting elementary school science. KAST has since expanded to 9 states. KAST Virginia was the second branch to open and was founded by Jessica Sun in 2011.
This program is primarily run by students for students. High school and college students collaborate to organize science programs for elementary school and middle schools. We also receive support from the faculty at participating schools and from the parents of our young participants. KAST is and always will be a community service program, and from bake sales to carwashes, we find creative ways to get the whole community involved!
Because KAST has grown to be such a big organization, we have many levels of leadership. At the local level, our high school branches usually have a president, a few vice presidents and the general volunteering population. These branches typically meet once a week to discuss new developments and are in charge of individual fund-raising. However, we also have KAST: Nationwide meetings, which consist of the presidents from each high school/state branch meeting once a week. In these meetings, we discuss nationwide projects – for example, creating a KAST newsletter or expanding internationally.
KAST's primary and first goal is to provide better, exciting science education for. We achieve this through our KAST high school branches, in which high school volunteers set up an after-school program at local elementary schools, using lesson plans KAST has written. These lesson plans are all experiment-based and promote group collaboration, as opposed to rote memorization and textbook learning so ubiquitous in today's science classrooms. We have recently expanded to other projects, such as the KAST YouTube channel, KAST Advanced for middle school students, KAST Edu (an online learning platform that mirrors the KAST curriculum), and KAST College. We are excited to continue working towards better STEM education for everyone!
All the money we raise through donations goes to keeping the KAST National Organization and branches running. This includes website and server costs, purchasing materials, funding summer camps, and new initiatives. KAST is completely run by passionate student volunteers and members receive no monetary benefits from the organization.
Some schools prefer that there is an adult supervisor to monitor KAST sessions and help out the student-teachers. However, KAST has operated successfully at a number of elementary schools without a teacher supervisor present.
KAST is purely volunteer-based. We rely on the high school population at each KAST branch to keep the organization running. Having been said, each student-teacher goes through a training process before being allowed to teach at an elementary school. We make sure they are prepared to teach 4th and 5th graders. In addition, teachers, principals and students can review student-teachers at the end of the KAST semester, and we take those recommendations into consideration for the next year’s placement.
KAST offers a holistic approach to science. We believe in introducing students to all kinds of science, from biology to mathematics. Each session plan is composed of an information section and an applied knowledge section, usually consisting of an experiment or demonstration.