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Science & Math Investigative Learning Experiences

(The S.M.I.L.E. Program)

A pre-college science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) academic after-school program for underrepresented students in grades 4th-12th.


A Wonderful Year It Has Been

Please click the link below to see a picture slideshow of this year's SMILE events and activities!

SMILE Year In Review


SMILE Students Design & Implement STEWARDSHIP Projects

This spring, students from all SMILE clubs (20 schools all together) have been busy developing and implementing their Environmental Stewardship Projects. Thanks to grants from NOAA B-WET, Dominion Foundation, and the Blackstone River Coalition, SMILE students have been able to “think big”.  Their goal: to decrease stormwater runoff!


Click HERE to See a Video of Harris Elementary Students in Woonsocket


Preisser Lab Outreach - Field Trip to Alton Jones!

May 7, 2014 -SMILE students had a blast learning from dedicated URI graduate and undergraduate students, Mauri, Chris, Liam, Jamie, Will, Elwood, and JustinThis field trip was part of an ongoing outreach effort made by Dr. Evan Preisser, who is a URI professor and community ecologist interested in understanding how food webs ‘work.'  Mauri Hickin, an MS student in the Preisser Lab, is particularly interested in outreach and teaching.  She planned and organized this informative and fun field trip. The purpose of this field trip was to get students excited and acquainted with the world of insects, plants and ecology. It was a fun time, and we look forward to more trips with the Preisser Lab in the future!


Middle School Engineering Challenge!

May 2-3, 2014 - This was so much fun!  Middle school students (6th, 7th, and 8th graders) worked in teams to build a truss bridge. The record amount of weight held was 122 pounds!  Club members from each school also brought balsa-wood bridges that they built during their club meetings (pictured below).  These were tested on a shake table, which simulates an earthquake.  Dr. George Tsiatis, URI Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering, facilitated this part of the event (thank you!).  A special thanks also goes out to the URI Transportation Center, who funds this event, and Jeff Cathcart, Director of Outreach and Education, who always helps to make this particular bridge challenge a success for SMILE.


A Tour of Bridges!

April, 2014 - Middle school students learned about bridges by going on a field trip!  They saw the IWAY, Braga, Mt. Hope, Sakonnet, Newport, and Jamestown Bridges.  Engineers from Steere Engineering and Pare Engineering came along to teach the kids about bridge design and construction.  They also stopped at Roger Williams University and heard an inspiring talk by their admissions officer, Don Mays. When possible, students inspected the bridges and drew diagrams (pictured below).


Elementary Outdoor Science Adventure!

April 11-13, 2014 - Wow!  This was a powerful event!  URI mentors, who started planning in January, made this weekend happen.  Their gentle and kind approach to all students made for a very harmonious experience for all.  They developed incredible bonds with students as they taught environmental science and interacted with students during the campfires, cabin talks, and mealtimes.  They are the best role models.  They worked together as a team and trusted each other. They made college more transparent for students and held high expectations.  Plus, we had AMAZING weather, and saw incredible wildlife!  Connection to nature is priceless! 

Click here for more PHOTOS of the EOSA!


Congrats to SMILE Student - Jean Paul Valencia

Read the article in the ProJo!

Jean Paul Valencia, a senior at Central Falls High School, has a 4.49 grade-point average and aced two of his SAT subject tests. He is expected to be the class valedictorian this spring.


SMILE High School Challenge Event!

March 21-22, 2014 - This year, SMILE High School students from 6 high schools participated in the event.  Students from Central Falls, Shea (Pawtucket), Tolman (Pawtucket), South Kingstown, West Warwick, and Woonsocket were represented, making a total of 110 students!  It was a busy event with lots of involvement from URI students and Professors (their expertise was priceless!). Throughout the weekend, everyone got a chance to perform a biotechnology lab in the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences building - Restriction Digestion & Analysis of Lambda DNA - facilitated by Linda Forrester (Manager of Biology Labs) and graduate and undergraduate students. Participants also got to experience the Human Simulation Lab (pictured below), which was facilitated by Dr. Clinton Chichester and Dr. Amanda DeAngelis-Chichester and the 3-D Teaching Lab, facilitated by Dr. Bongsup Cho and Dr. Roberta King. Students from AISES (American Indian Science & Engineering Society) and SACNAS (Advancing Hispanics/Chicanos & Native Americans in Science) facilitated different activities with our SMILE students at the greenhouses and outdoors to teach about biodiversity.  Students from Tau Beta Pi, NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), and SNPhA (Student National Pharmeceutical Association) volunteered in different capacities -- the Marshmallow Challenge was a huge hit!  The event was a huge success. We are happy to say that this is our future STEM workforce!


District-wide Family Science Nights are underway

In SMILE, each district plans a wonderful event called a Family Science Night (FSN).  These events bring together SMILE students, their families, and community members.  Students demonstrate and explain interactive science and math activities.  SMILE personnel inform parents and students about college admissions and student financial aid.  The FSN is a wonderful expression of interest and support by parents and community members.  Parents have the opportunity to get more involved in their children's education, and see them as competent learners.  The SMILE students' self-esteem soars!  The photo demonstrates a high school project -- Rain Garden in a Barrel!  So creative!


SMILE Winter Teachers' Workshop

December 5, 2013 - 40 SMILE teachers attended the winter workshop.  Elementary teachers will work with their students to prepare for the Elementary Outdoor Science Adventure.  They will be studying Biotic and Abiotic Factors that Create an Ecological Community.  Middle schoolers will study Bridges and Earthquakes to prepare for the Engineering Challenge in May.  High school students will study biotechnology to prepare for their Challenge event in March.

SMILE Director Presents at NSTA Conference in Portland, OR

October 24, 2013 - Congratulations to SMILE for being picked to present "A STEM Success Story" at the 2013 National Science Teachers Association Conference in Portland, OR!


SMILE Wins RIASPA's Lights On Afterschool Outstanding Youth Program!

October 16, 2013 - Congratulations to SMILE for winning the Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance (RIASPA) Lights On Afterschool Outstanding Youth Program! We were nominated and selected because of our strong program and proven outcomes presenting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) academic after-school program for underrepresented students in grades 4th-12th. We received this prestigious award on October 16th at the RIASPA Breakfast of Champions at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston, RI.

July Workshop!

July 17-18, 2013 - The unveiling of a new curriculum!  This year's exciting theme....Watershed ForestryThe focus is on the connections between students, their school, and town; they will make detailed observations on the impacts that their small area has on their immediate surroundings, wider community, watershed, and state. Students will investigate their school grounds and local watershed in the fall and early winter while preparing to develop and implement a Stewardship Project for the spring. The goal of this project will be to increase biodiversity and/or decrease stormwater runoff at your school or community site.


May SMILE Teachers' Workshop!

May 10, 2013 - Celebration of an amazing SMILE year!  The first part of the workshop involved recognition of the many accomplishments of SMILE clubs, teachers and students.  The second part was "The Science of Energy."  This was facilitated by Shannon Donovan, Scituate High School teacher and NEED facilitator, through the State of Rhode Island Office of Energy and the NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project.

Elementary Outdoor Science Adventure!

April 26-28, 2013 - SMILE 4th and 5th graders had a blast at this year's Elementary Outdoor Science Adventure at Alton Jones.  The URI students did an incredible job teaching hands-on environmental science and instilling the importance of lifelong learning and environmental stewardship.  Everyone left the weekend feeling a little (or a lot) changed for the better.  That's what time in nature with friends can do.

High School Engineering Challenge Weekend!

March 22-23, 2013 - This year, approximately 100 high school students successfully designed and tested solar vehicles!  Teams built their own transmissions and designed every aspect of their vehicles.  Of course, speed was measured, but we also looked at technical precision, aerodynamics, transmission design, and placement of soda can (which was the "cargo space").  Students did a great job as usual!

National Recognition: NSTA Writes Article About SMILE

March 12, 2013 - Check out the article that the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) wrote about SMILE and another effective afterschool program in NYC!

Read the article here

Collegiate SMILE Becomes Senate-Recognized at URI

March 2013 - There are 75 students currently at URI who were in The SMILE Program in elementary, middle, and/or high school. Many of them decided to start a Collegiate SMILE organization at URI with their own mission.  Please check out their website to learn more.

Collegiate SMILE Webpage

Middle School Engineering Challenge Weekend!

March 1-2, 2013 - This year, students successfully designed blades, built the nacelle and blades, and tested to see how much voltage their wind turbine could produce.  Students met lots of new friends and got to experience URI's campus.  The challenge was introduced by Mark DePasquale (Wind Energy Development, LLC).  He invited students to visit his wind turbine, which was recently erected in North Kingstown.  This field trip will take place in the spring!

More Challenge Photos

Narragansett Times Article about MS Challenge

Family Science Nights are in full swing

November/December, 2012 - Family Science Nights bring together SMILE students, their families, community members, and administrators. Students enthusiastically demonstrate interactive science activities.  This year, they taught us about their local watershed.  Students and parents also learn more about college admission.  And you can't beat these potlucks!


Winter Professional Development at URI

November 30, 2012 - Elementary, middle, and high school SMILE teachers attended a workshop at the University of Rhode Island.  Elementary will make discoveries about ecosystems, habitats, and population diversity; middle will be investigating wind turbines; and high school will be delving into vehicle design and solar power.

SMILE Annual Report Update

Please note that there was a mistake in SMILE's 2011-2012 Annual Report.  On page 10 of the report, it stated that "only 59 percent of applicants are admitted to the program [Program in Liberal Medical Education]."  In fact, only 4% of applicants were admitted to the PLME program this year.  Brown accepted only 115 students from close to 2900 applicants.  The enrollment, however, was of only 61 students, and only 2 of them were from RI, including David Hernandez, a SMILE alumnus!  Our apologies for the typo!

Summer Teacher Workshops!

July 17-19, 2012 - SMILE teacher leaders came to URI for the rolling out of the brand new Watershed Monitoring curriculum.  Despite the heat, we practiced the outdoor investigations, looking at water quality, macroinvertebrates, wildlife, and vegetation.  Thanks, as usual, to all those that volunteered their expertise at the workshop (Chris Mason, President of Mason & Associates, Inc., Lorraine Joubert, NEMO Director, Matt Deane, MESM student, Denise Poyer, Program Director at Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association, Neil Anthes, Kettle Pond Visitor Center, and Josh Sargent, URI Watershed Watch).  Also, a special thanks to Cathy Valentino, Author-in-Residence at Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt Publishers, who always brings inspiration to teachers.

More Workshop Photos


Field Trip to GSO!

May 14 & 15, 2012 - High School SMILE students took a field trip to the Graduate School of Oceanography.  They tested their ROVs in Narragansett Bay, captured phytoplankton, collected water samples to do bacterial counts, and used a YSI device to collect water data.  Science in the real world!  Thank you to the volunteers from EPSCoR, GSO, and the Dep't of Health for your expertise!

More Field Trip PHOTOS


Central Falls High School SMILE Students Plant a Rain Garden!

May 8, 2012 - CFHS SMILE students planted a rain garden at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Charles Street in Central Falls as part of their Watershed Stewardship Project and the city's Chocolate Mill Overlook project (  Nice job guys!

More Rain Garden PHOTOS


Elementary Outdoor Science Adventure!

April 27-29, 2012 - This event to remember for all involved - it is life-changing for SMILE students and college students alike.  URI students spend a semester planning and preparing for making the EOSA a meaningful and powerful weekend for the 4th and 5th grade SMILE students.  They plan environmental field studies and think about ways to build self-esteem and confidence in these incredible young people and encourage them to continue with SMILE through 12th grade and to attend higher education.  Most importantly, their love for learning and spirit of fun and adventure is fostered.  It was a huge success.



Middle School Engineering Challenge Weekend!

March 30-31, 2012 - This year, middle school students designed, built, and tested Magnetically Levitated Trains and Hydraulic Cranes! All teams were successful!

More Middle School Challenge PHOTOS


High School Engineering Challenge Weekend!

March 2-3, 2012 - This year, high school students designed, built, and tested Remotely Operated Vehicles to "Save the Lobster!"

More High School Challenge PHOTOS


EOSA Videos!

March 28, 2012 - This year, URI mentors who will be teaching SMILE elementary students at Alton Jones this Spring put together videos for the students!

Horgan Elementary - West Warwick

Central Falls - Ella Risk

Coleman - Woonsocket

Harris - Woonsocket

South Kingstown Elementary

Contact Information

The SMILE Program
University of Rhode Island
305 Memorial Union
Kingston, RI 02881

p. 401.874.2036
f. 401.874.2620

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Collegiate SMILE at URI