Traditional science classes often extinguish young people’s enthusiasm for the natural world by stressing rote memorization rather than creative thinking and application. When Geoffrey Laff arrived at Yale in the fall of 1986, he wanted to show New Haven elementary students that science could be both fun and accessible. He designed an hour-long presentation in which Yale undergraduates used visually striking demonstrations to illustrate basic scientific principles. Laff borrowed glassware, found the needed materials, and asked for help from established community groups to arrange funding, scheduling and transportation for the group. In the spring of 1987, Demos was born.

By teaching science with an interactive, hands-on approach, Geoff hoped to show students the fun side to this seemingly dry and difficult subject. Elementary school students who enjoyed the presentations would then be encouraged to explore science further in their education, instead of branding it as “too hard” or “not for students like me”. Like a movie preview, Demos science shows were meant to entice students to come back for more.

What began as a two-person act giving five demonstrations per semester has evolved into a 60+ member organization performing weekly demonstrations in eight different schools. Additionally, Demos has recently launched Starlab, which teaches basic astronomy concepts in a mobile planetarium to local elementary schools. Demos is always growing and aims to increase Starlab’s volunteer capacity while expanding the range of its Weekly Classrooms program.

Praise for Demos

Demos has won the praise of students, teachers, Yale volunteers, and professors. Take a look at some praise for Demos:

  • “We loved it. Come back next year!”
    4th Grade Teacher, Vincent Mauro Elementary School, New Haven, CT
  • “Great job and keep it up! :)”
    5th Grade Teacher, Columbus School, New Haven, CT

Yale Science Outreach