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UPenn PhD Sociologist Teaching Kids Science in Free Time

January 15, 2018


Good Samaritan, community leader, teacher, environmentalist, sounds like someone who is doing positive things in the world, right?  That's just what Matt  Holtman does in his free time as the leader of the Stream Science Club in Radnor, Pennsylvania. 


As the Chairman of Radnor Township's Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), a voluntary position, Matt took it upon himself to lead the charge in applying for a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant focused on teaching grade school kids about local stream conservation.  He credits his role on the EAC with helping him develop a community of educators, environmentalists and concerned citizens who helped him develop the concept and curriculum. 


Little did he know how much pent up demand there was for such a program.  After receiving over 100 requests to join the program he had to enlist the help of 7 high school interns just to accommodate the 40 students that are currently in the program.  Originally, it was intended to be a one-year program but Matt hopes now that he has been able to buy some basic equipment (microscopes, measurement tools, etc.) that he may be able to stretch the $3,000 grant that was awarded to allow him to continue the program beyond the initial time frame. 


When asked why a University of Pennsylvania Sociology PhD, who is now a data scientist, decided to teach stream science to kids Matt said he just wanted to "go out and try something."  He said it's rewarding to think that maybe for one or two kids their experience in the Stream Science Club may "be the spark that inspires them to change the world" and as an added bonus he has been able to share something he has developed a passion for with his own kids, Laila (8) and Ben (12) who have been helpers and participants in the program. 


He has been surprised at the feedback he has received from the parents of the participants, although the concepts are fairly advanced, parents report the kids do understand some of the basic scientific concepts and that they talk about what they did even after they get home.  With his can-do attitude it comes as no surprise to the Positivity Project team that Matt is having an impact far beyond his initial goal and just seeing the reaction of the kids as they perform experiments is proof enough of the power of even one person and the inherit good of the human spirit.

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