Leonisa Ardizzone ’90 had no intention of becoming a teacher. But her positive experiences with faculty in the biology department at Ithaca College helped set her on the path to spreading her love of science, especially to young girls who are often underrepresented in the field. She founded a New York City nonprofit called Storefront Science to engage young children in the sciences through the use of creative exploration, using their natural curiosity to expose them to the scientific workings of their world.
Ardizzone invites children ages 2 to 12 to think critically in a fun learning environment where they can develop important skills like problem solving. For example, Ardizzone offered a camp last summer called “Go Fly a Kite,” where students learned about gravity, the difference between weight and mass, and how planes fly.
“They get a choice to explore what they want to do. They can ask as many questions as they want, and they have access to people who have materials and ideas that maybe they don’t get exposed to on a regular basis,” she said.
Ardizzone credits her mentors in high school and college, including professors Lucile Schmeider and Mildred Brammer, with inspiring her to get more girls interested in science. Even though the numbers of girls in science fields have increased since she was in school, Ardizzone said women are still underrepresented in research science and physics and engineering.
“I guess it’s a personal crusade to show girls that their brains are just as valuable as male brains. They can look at science in a different way, and they should share that and bring that to the world,” she said.
Ardizzone’s greatest challenge is running this small business; the science and the teaching aspects come naturally to her.
“I basically wear 20 different hats. So for me the biggest challenge is just juggling the entrepreneur-businesswoman hat with the scientist-teacher hat with the single-parent hat — which are all three lovely hats,” she said.