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Pathways to Science: Letters to a Pre-Scientist

Letters to a Pre-Scientist school science pen-pal program

Today we are going to start a 2-week series on opportunities for kids to make connections to fields of science by interacting with actual scientists. See other posts in the series "Pathways to Science" here.

We’ll start off by taking a close look at a great program called “Letters to a Pre-Scientist”. This program is a collaboration between teachers and scientists that aims to give students a view of science beyond what they may see in their traditional classroom setting.

Students are paired with a scientist pen-pal. Throughout the school year they receive and write letters to this scientist. “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” serves many areas where children do not have many opportunities to see what possibilities are out there in terms of higher education or careers. These personal connections can literally change their lives.

Receiving the letters is not only exciting for the students, but also gives them writing practice.  The volunteer scientists hail from all over the United States and the world, which undoubtedly broadens the students’ view of the world. The program served 400 students this school year.

The program was the brain-child of Macon Lowman, a Teach for America science teacher with a job placement in rural North Carolina in 2010. She quickly recognized that the majority of her students came from low-income families with little hope that they would go to college, or in some cases even complete high school. She had the brilliant idea of connecting them to scientists to inspire and inform them of the possibilities for future education and careers. With the help of Anna Goldstein, a scientist who organized others to volunteer, they were off and running. “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” was born.

Currently, “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” is run on 100% volunteer power. Supplies are dependent on donation or paid for out-of-pocket by teachers. If you are interested in helping this program grow, donating supplies, or participating yourself as a scientist, teacher or student, you can connect with the program through their website, Facebook pageor on Twitter

Just imagine the impact of a program like this in all schools, with scientists and even professionals in other fields. Assuring each student makes a connection with someone who can show them an example of a pathway to a lifetime of curiosity, inquiry and an interesting and fulfilling career, now that is what I call a real-world education!


  1. Thank you Sarah for helping spread the word about our program! I'm glad you are as excited as we are about getting students and scientists talking to each other. :)

    1. My pleasure! I was excited to learn about your program. I wish you the best of luck as it grows!