ARMS – Adult Role Models in Science

ARMS, the Adult Role Models in Science program, provides opportunities for people of all ages to engage with the Madison community in the context of science. The program is centrally housed at WISCIENCE and branches through the community with many support networks from individuals and community groups.

ARMS programming at WISCIENCE is funded in part by the Lyle Hill fund at Kiwanis of Downtown Madison.

The ARMS approach

  • ARMS creates an ongoing community-wide collaboration around K-8 science education, bringing programming, resources, and stakeholders together to provide support and make a lasting impact on students, teachers, and families. 
  • This collaborative approach has enabled the creation of new science programming across Madison, and ARMS plays a key role in its development and ongoing support. Through courses, demonstrations, training, and other means, ARMS cultivates an ongoing corps of interested and effective adult scientific role models who are central to existing programming and new initiatives.

Why Role Models?

  • Kids who believe science is for other people and not for them need more than an engaging science activity to encourage their involvement in science. Developing continued and trusted relationships with adult scientific role models who know and care about them can foster their enthusiasm for science learning and their belief that they can learn more – and can be successful scientists themselves. ­
  • Potential scientific role models come in a variety of forms and can connect with children in a variety of ways., Interaction with college students studying science or science education establishes a science identity and also help them to become aware of college itself and pursuit of scientific careers.  Classroom teachers, research scientists, after-school staff, and local volunteers provide additional viewpoints and support. Many Madison-area adults wish to support children in scientific endeavors but are not sure where to begin. ARMS serves as a network of people who can connect them with both volunteer opportunities and resources. 

The Impact

  • One role model can reach many children, especially over the course of time, so focusing efforts on adult leaders helps multiply the impact of the program. Role models often become science education leaders in their programs and schools, facilitating positive change.
  • The power of the ARMS approach is enormous. Since 1990, the ARMS collaboration has initiated or interacted with up to 40 after-school science clubs each year, learning communities for teachers, a classroom volunteer program, dozens of Family Science events each year, and a middle school mentoring program with an annual city-wide symposium. 
  • If you are in the Madison area, your organization or business can become a partner or sponsor organization. Individual volunteers and donations are also welcome. 

WISCIENCE Community-Based Learning Course

    • Service with Youth in STEM is a UW–Madison course for undergraduates who lead 15-30 elementary after-school science clubs as part of the course. Students to learn how to engage youth from a diversity of backgrounds, cultivating scientific thinking and confidence around science. Students apply their learning as they work in the community, supporting after-school science clubs and other programming for K-8 children. The ARMS student organization connects current and past participants so they can share activities and ideas.

ARMS training and professional development workshops

    • Professional development workshops for after-school staff are a staple of the ARMS program. These tailored workshops, as well as regularly scheduled trainings for community volunteers, help build skills and understanding around science education and increase comfort with leading science activities.

ARMS classroom partners

    • Classroom teachers get individual support with this program, which matches them with science volunteers who provide planning support and help make science investigations in the classroom come to life. The volunteers aren’t just there for a day—they build relationships with the teachers and their students over an entire school year.

Science Clubs (K-6)

    • Engaging children in science needs to start early before students decide once and for all that science isn’t for them. After-school and summer science clubs for K-6 children meet weekly to provide hands-on science activities that encourage observation and problem-solving. After-school program staff lead the clubs alongside trained college student volunteers. The clubs bring science to the places children already are—after-school and summer programs at their schools and community centers. This removes barriers to participation.

Family Science Events

    • Students can show off their learning, and families can do science together at these community events, which include investigation, food, and fun. Special events for parents (with free child care) allow adults to explore and become role models of science learning. Schools and community organizations host the events, and the ARMS program provides a guide for organizers, activity templates, and assistance in recruiting science volunteers to lead investigation activities.

Madison Middle School Science Symposium

    • ARMS matches trained science volunteers with middle school students interested in research. The volunteer mentors meet with students at their schools each week for several months, working on a real research project. Students present their research at a city-wide symposium on the UW-Madison campus each spring. Mentors often bring the students to their labs for a visit as well.

ARMS parents for science

    • Parents who want to engage their children in science and support local science education can connect with each other and learn about resources and programs in the community via the ARMS Parents for Science Facebook page and e-newsletter.

Become a Scientific Role Model

ARMS Training Request Form

ARMS Volunteer Options

Become a Partner or Sponsor Organization

After School Science Club Request Form

Connect with Rolde Model Volunteers

Request Help From Trained Volunteers

Support the ARMS Program

Donate to the Program

The ARMS collaboration was initiated in 1990 as a partnership between WISCIENCE (then the Center for Biology Education) and the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison. It was the brainchild of Lyle Hill and Bob Heidemen, who had ties to both organizations. The original programming, which focused on classroom volunteers, was developed by Hill, Heideman, and Dolly Ledin of WISCIENCE. The Kiwanis Club of Downtown Madison was the first organization to “adopt a school” through ARMS—Emerson Elementary, which is still involved with the program today.


ARMS serves the Madison area only, but if you are interested in creating a similar program in your community, contact us at:

Anna Courtier

Credentials: Ph.D.

Position title: Director of Community-Based Learning