Students can step into the shoes of a chemist with Science in the Summer

Alan Brian Nilsen/ABN photography

For the past 9 years in the summertime, The Franklin Institute has put together a free program aimed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with GSK’s Science in the Summer. Usually, the events featured in this STEM program provided by the science-led global healthcare company in partnership with the FI take place at local libraries and other community-based organizations, but this year, with the current pandemic situation, it has been decided to instead launch Science in the Summer virtually to still provide a memorable but also safe experience. 

2020’s program is themed ‘Be a Chemist!’ and will have participants practicing different experiments for second through sixth-grade levels. According to the release, the all-new curriculum invites children to play the role of chemists by practicing real scientific techniques and exploring basic principles of chemistry—including being water chemists who clean a polluted river and being materials chemists who design a new slime toy. The program provides opportunities for students to embody science careers, think scientifically, plus use real science tools and techniques—and have fun all at the same time. 

Alan Brian Nilsen/ABN photography

“We hope that GSK Science in the Summer programs continue to inspire more children to put on their goggles and explore the wonders of science. Our goal is to encourage students, particularly those from populations underrepresented in the scientific community, to pursue STEM career paths later in life,” said Becki Lynch, Director, US Community Partnerships at GSK, in a statement.

The program started over three decades ago in the City of Brotherly Love to correlate with GSK’s dedication to supporting diverse and equitable participation in STEM education and careers. As the years have passed, The Franklin Institute and GSK have been able to provide just that to children not only in the Philadelphia area but also around the country, and every year efforts have gotten bigger with supplying fresh material. In fact, the summer 2020 program will be servicing 23,000 students at 26 organizations across the country this year alone for its ‘Be a Chemist!’ program. Activities will specifically be aimed at learning about the importance of the chemistry field through different avenues such as in medicine, art, manufacturing and environmental conservation. 

How can you participate this year? 

According to the release, The Franklin Institute will be giving away 2,500 kits of science materials through an online lottery, for families to complete one of the ‘Be a Chemist!’ activities at home. Interested families can enter the lottery to win a kit of science materials beginning at noon on Monday, June 29, at Families who are not selected in the lottery can still experience the full virtual program by gathering simple science materials from home, most of which can be found in the kitchen. All activity guides, materials lists, lab notebooks and videos will be freely available on the website and live events will be open to any interested families who have completed the at-home experiments.

In the Philadelphia area, families from five surrounding counties will be selected from the lottery to receive the at-home kits. However, whether you receive the kit or decide to use materials at home, educators from The Franklin Institute will also be able to show participating students how to safely set up their at-home lab through a series of accompanying online videos. Those videos will also feature more information about the hands-on activities that the students will be performing at home, each of which will put them into four different roles: a color chemist, water chemist, materials chemist or medicinal chemist.

After participating and conducting each at-home experiment, students will then get to share the results of their research and reflect on their own experiences stepping into the roles of scientists through a live virtual research meeting with a Franklin Institute educator. Lastly, in August, all students will then be invited to experience a virtual chemistry show performed live by The Franklin Institute.


“Now, more than ever, science matters. Engaging students early on in STEM is critical to fostering the next generation of scientists and innovators, and one of the best ways we can prepare students for lifelong success,” said Dr. Darryl Williams, Senior Vice President of Science and Education at The Franklin Institute, in a statement. “By going virtual this summer, the program is poised to reach even more families in many different areas across the country, making an even greater impact. We continue to be proud to partner with GSK to make STEM learning accessible and engaging for students in Philadelphia and beyond.”

To learn more information about the GSK Science in the Summer’s ‘Be a Chemist!’ programming in partnership with The Franklin Institute, visit

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