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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

  • our students with young students


The goals of ScienceQuest are twofold: to increase the number of minority and female middle school students who consider geoscience (which includes geology, geophysics, hydrology, oceanography, marine science, atmospheric science, planetary science, meteorology, environmental science, and soil science) as a possible career, and to enhance their enjoyment of and interest in science. 

SEOE undergraduate, master's, and doctoral students can participate in the program, and graduate students are able to receive academic credit for their participation.

What We Do

ScienceQuest is an after school informal science and technology program geared towards elementary and middle school students (ages 7-14).  Two person team leaders work with 3-5 students to explore a science topic that they have identified at the beginning of the program.  Teams meet once a week for 1.5 hours over a course of 10-12 weeks.  Each team uses small-scale experiments, demonstrations, and science technology to investigate their topic, culminating in the development of an on-line website depending on the group's age.  We have participated in Summer Camps and the TRIO Program's Upward Bound.

ScienceQuest coaches are volunteers from throughout the community and range from television meteorologists to research scientists.  A number of our coaches are graduate students and researchers involved in cutting edge scientific research programs at the University of South Carolina (USC).  For more information on becoming a participant or volunteer in ScienceQuest, please contact Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson ( at USC. 

The approach used in our project, problem and inquiry-based learning methods, has been proven to increase student engagement, cooperative learning skills, and test skills.  We believe that this approach, coupled with the use of young and enthusiastic geoscience experts has made our program unique and successful.

Student Researchers and Volunteers

Over 100 undergraduate, masters and doctoral students and over 325 elementary and middle school children have participated in the program since its inception in 2002. Our graduate students have developed lessons and experiments that can easily be used by teachers anywhere who are interested in conducting hands-on science experiments.

Starting in Spring 2004, graduate students who participated in SQ could receive graduate level credit, Geol 805: Seminar in Geoscience Education.


Since 2007, we've offered ScienceQuest at St. Lawrence Place, a transitional housing community for families in crisis. More than 125 students ranging in age from 7 to 14 have participated so far. Past locations included Hand Middle School and Richland County Parks.


ScienceQuest was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (2006-2009).  The Fast Forward Technology Center (FFCTC) and the University of South Carolina (USC) have been conducting ScienceQuest (SQ) since Fall 2002. Our Program began as an offshoot of a National SQ program (unfortunately no longer funded), whose goals were to provide opportunities for elementary and middle school students to increase their scientific knowledge, foster technological skill development, and offer positive experiences working with a team of peers in a safe, after school environment.  We have modified this program to fulfill our own needs.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.