Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most common questions of prospective volunteers. If you have a question that is not answered here, please feel free to contact the BASIS Program Manager.

What is BASIS?

Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS) is a volunteer program that places scientists and engineers in local (East Bay) elementary schools to give fun, hands-on, hour-long presentations that are aligned with current elementary science standards. You can learn more about the history and goals of the BASIS program here.

How old are the kids? 

The students you’ll be working with are in grades TK-6, approximately ages 5-12. Because we align BASIS lessons to grade level standards, the topic of your lesson will determine the age and grade level of the students you will work with. BASIS training and coaching includes preparing our volunteers to communicate effectively and engage young students in inquiry -- whatever age level you teach.

Where are the schools located? 

Most classroom placements take place in public elementary schools in the East Bay corridor from Oakland through Berkeley and north into Richmond and Pinole, covering Alameda and West Contra Costa counties. Volunteers are placed in accordance with their travel and geographic preferences. If you do not have access to a car, we can make sure to place you only in schools that are public transit accessible. If you do have a car, you can tell us if you have geographical restrictions (i.e. you don't want to drive more than 30 min to reach a school).

What is the time commitment?

Volunteering for BASIS is a small time investment that makes a huge impact on kids – and their teachers! To get started, you’ll attend a 1-hour orientation. After that, you'll choose a lesson from our Lesson Plan Library and you'll attend a coaching session to ensure that you'll be comfortable with the lesson and successful engaging students in the classroom. We encourage new volunteers and teams to first "shadow" a BASIS presentation, observing and assisting to get actual in-the-classroom experience before diving into leading your own lesson. Our goal is for each team to visit 10 classrooms per school year and most volunteers teach 1-2 lessons each month. However, we are very flexible! You can volunteer more or less than that, depending on your schedule!

Are there other volunteer opportunities?

Yes! CRS offers a variety of one-time volunteer opportunities in addition to our ongoing volunteer programs. Most of them occur in the evening or on weekends, so they may work well for you if you are not available during the school day. You are also more than welcome to participate in these opportunities in addition to your BASIS involvement!

How do I pick a presentation topic? 

Start by examining our kid-tested, teacher-approved Lesson Plan Library. We will work with you to find a match between what you love about science and what kids are already learning in school. If you don't see one that you like, our staff is happy to help you find the lesson that matches your research interests. If you are interested in developing a new lesson, please contact the BASIS Program Manager and we can discuss this process with you. 

I've never worked with young kids before. Does your training cover teaching techniques?

Absolutely! Most of our volunteers have little to no prior experience working with younger students. We offer coaching as well as tips and tricks to communicate clearly at each grade level, capture the attention of wiggly youngsters, and guarantee that both you and the kids have a great time. In addition, we provide you with the opportunity to shadow a staff member or current volunteers while they teach a class lesson so that you can get a feel for the classroom environment. We’ll also review and comment on your presentation outline to help make sure your language and concepts are age-appropriate. And fear not – teachers will always stay in the room with you during your presentation and are happy to offer guidance and help with managing the kids.

I'm a scientist or engineer by profession. Can I still participate? 

Yes! One of the philosophies of BASIS is that it’s valuable for kids to be exposed to a wide range of diverse, enthusiastic science and engineer role models. Many of our volunteers work in a scientific field, but others work in technology, education, or are simply people who love science! Though it's important that you have sufficient educational background to discuss simple scientific concepts with confidence, it’s not necessary that you be a “traditional” scientist to participate. Our private industry teams often include scientists, engineers, accountants, marketing specialists and others who all work together at a science-based company.

Does CRS reimburse for teaching supplies and transportation?

Yes! CRS will reimburse reasonable expenses for teaching supplies, printed handouts, and travel, generally up to $50 per team each year. Please save receipts and send them to the BASIS Program Managers for reimbursement. Whenever possible, we encourage volunteers to use materials that can be purchased at a grocery or hardware store and be used for several classroom visits, because this helps to show teachers that science and engineering can be effectively taught in elementary classrooms with everyday items. 

How do I get started?

If you are a scientist or student affiliated with UC Berkeley, then you can start here.

If you are a science professional or science/engineering enthusiast not associated with UC Berkeley, then the training process is a bit different, so start here.