Afterschool Cohorts

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Applications are open for Spring 2023 cohorts.

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.

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 of Research

Who: Students enrolled in 4th and 5th grades in Fall 2022

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

When: September 7–December 14, 2022
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4–6 PM
No cohort on November 23, 2022 due to Thanksgiving Break

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 Fall 2023

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

Fall 2023

When: September 6 – December 13, 2023
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4–6 PM
No cohort on Wednesday, November 22, 2023.

Registration Open

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 the 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 Spring 2023

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

Spring 2023

When: January 19 – May 2, 2023
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4–6 PM
No cohort April 3-7th due to Spring Break.

Register Now! Registration must be received by January 12, 2023.

Human Innovation

Explore how innovation improves the quality of life.

Registration Open

Blast off to worlds unknown as you explore space and the innovations that make space exploration possible. Discover 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 Spring 2023

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

Spring 2023

When: January 18 – May 3, 2023
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4–6 PM
No cohort on February 20th and April 3-7th due to Spring Break.

Register Now! Registration must be received by January 11, 2023.

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 of Research

Who: Students enrolled in 5th and 6th grades in Fall 2022

Where: Van Andel Institute for Education

When: September 8–December 15, 2022
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4–6 PM
No cohort on November 24, 2022 due to Thanksgiving

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: September 7 – December 14, 2023
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4–6 PM
No cohort on Thursday, November 23, 2023.

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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Afterschool Cohort Video