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Afterschool Cohorts

Fall 2024 Registration Is Now Open!

Register for Biomedical Explorers or Space Engineers for Fall 2024.

Discover VAI’s Afterschool Cohorts: Biodiversity & Human Health | Human Innovation

Van Andel Institute for Education seeks and admits students to the Afterschool Cohort who are curious, creative, and enjoy working with others. The Afterschool Cohort inspires groups of students to think and act like scientists and engineers over the course of one semester. They’ll conduct hands-on investigations, ask questions, investigate, and discover answers using scientific tools and resources. 

There is no cost to participate in this program. Tuition is fully underwritten by Van Andel Institute and generous donors.

Please note: Grade levels are for students entering the grades indicated in each Afterschool Cohort.

Check out our Afterschool Cohorts.

Biodiversity & Human Health

Examine how our health depends on biodiversity.

Explore our living world through the observations of plants and animals in this after school cohort. Learn about our resident animals and deepen your understanding of what all organisms need to survive. Finally, use your new knowledge to build a habitat for your very own organism! As a bonus, you’ll also visit with experts to discover more about exotic plants and animals! View Student Outcome Report

Some of the guided activities:

  • Learn how plants and animals survive in their environment
  • Build your own habitat for an organism
  • Virtually tour zoos from around the country to learn about different animal adaptations
  • Develop a plan to raise awareness around an endangered species of your choice
  • Meet a scientist from the Van Andel Institute for Research

Who: Students enrolled in 4th and 5th grades in Fall 2025.

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education, 216 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

When: TBA

Do you know how ecosystems are important to our health? In this after school cohort, students will have the opportunity to learn how ecosystems work and why they matter by designing their own investigations using animals and plants. Plus, they’ll get to build their own living ecosystem, and visit with local environmental experts to learn about problems facing our ecosystems! View Student Outcome Report.

Some of the guided activities:

  • Build an ecosystem and learn how to make the organisms within it thrive
  • Design and build solutions to help prevent run-off from getting into our water
  • Learn about pollination and how it can affect our health
  • Discover how organisms adapt to different ecosystems to survive
  • Meet a scientist from the Van Andel Institute of Research

Who: Students enrolled in 5th and 6th grades in Spring 2025

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education, 216 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

When: TBA

Investigate the role model organisms play in helping us better understand human health. Discover the role DNA plays in inheritance, observe how organisms grow and develop, and study the environment’s impact on physiology. Visit a Van Andel Institute lab to learn about research from experts. Conduct investigations to answer questions YOU want answered to learn how our health depends on genetic diversity. View Student Outcome Report

Who: Students enrolled in 6th and 7th grades in Fall 2024

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education, 216 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Fall 2024

When: September 4 – December 16, 2024
Days: Mondays and Wednesdays, 4–6 PM
Orientation: Wednesday, August 7th, 5–6 PM
No cohort on Monday, November 11th and Wednesday, November 27th.
Registration Opens: June 1, 2024 – August 21, 2024

Register

Human Innovation

Explore how innovation improves the quality of life.

Blast off to worlds unknown as you explore space and the innovations that make space exploration possible. Discover the challenges of human and robotic space exploration. Learn how robots are carried into space with rockets and how they land and move about on planetary bodies such as Mars. Design, build, and program LEGO® Mindstorm® robots to explore the surface and interior of space objects. View Student Outcome Report

Who: Students enrolled in 4th and 5th grades in Fall 2024

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education, 216 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Fall 2024

When: September 5 – December 17, 2024
Days: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4–6 PM
Orientation: Thursday, August 8th, 5–6 PM
No cohort on Tuesday, November 12th and Thursday, November 28th 
Registration Opens: June 1, 2024 – August 21, 2024

Register

Explore natural and manmade disasters and discover their impact on the world around us. Using engineering challenges, this afterschool cohort will investigate how we predict, prepare for, respond to and recover from natural disasters. Gaining a better understanding of these powerful events can help limit future damage and ultimately protect humans from these forces of nature. View Student Outcome Report

Some of the guided activities:

  • Learn about structural designs in buildings to help them resist various disasters
  • Design an earthquake-resistant building
  • Create your own model to understand landslides, tsunamis, sinkholes, and earthquakes
  • Meet a scientist from the Van Andel Institute for Research

Who: Students enrolled in 5th and 6th grades in Fall 2025

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education

When: TBA

Where would we be without energy? Students will investigate energy and its many uses in our world through this cohort experience as they learn about traditional energy sources and explore alternative energies that will help power the future. Throughout the semester, students will explore the environmental and economic costs and benefits of energy used to move vehicles, and design their own car! View Student Outcome Report.

Some of the guided activities:

  • Design a car that operates on alternative energy
  • Discover how much energy household items use
  • Audit your home’s energy use and create a plan to save energy and money
  • Design and test a Wind Turbine
  • Design ways to harness the power of the sun’s energy
  • Meet a scientist from Van Andel Institute of Research

Who: Students enrolled in 6th and 7th grades in Fall 2023

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education, 216 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503

When: TBA

Why do parents love our afterschool program?

Van Andel Institute for Education’s Afterschool Cohorts provide a place where your kids can explore and discover in a safe environment. Our goal is to help children expand their creative minds, social skills, and problem-solving skills through fun and challenging experiences.

“The program is phenomenal! All the activities were just so cool. We are so grateful to be a part of this program and you do a great job of keeping it entertaining.”

 –Afterschool Cohort Parent

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