Leap into Science is a nationwide program that integrates open-ended science activities with children’s books, designed for children ages 3-10 and their families. We empower educators to offer programs in community settings like libraries, museums, and out-of-school time programs to engage underserved audiences in accessible and familiar settings.

Meet Our Team

Photo of Julia Skolnik

Julia Skolnik

Project Director

Julia Skolnik is the Assistant Director of Professional Development at The Franklin Institute and Principal Investigator of Leap into Science. She oversees the direction of the network and project partners to achieve our overarching goals.

Karen Peterson Headshot

Karen Peterson

Project Director

Karen Peterson is the Founder and CEO of the National Girls Collaborative Project and The Connectory, and co-Principal Investigator of Leap into Science. She advises on scale-up and oversees the development of systems to achieve project goals.

Tara Cox

Tara Cox

Lead Trainer

Tara Cox is the Manager of Professional Development at the Franklin Institute and Co-Principal Investigator of Leap into Science. She trains and supports state leaders in training informal educators in program curricula and facilitation strategies.

Casi Herrera Headshot

Casi Herrera

Network Manager

Casi Herrera is the Educational Programs Manager at the National Girls Collaborative and Network Manager of Leap into Science. She supports state leadership teams’ collaboration and implementation of the program.

Emily Early Picture

Emily Early

Project Administrator

Emily Early is the Professional Development Coordinator at The Franklin Institute and the Project Administrator for Leap into Science. Emily coordinates project logistics and provides technical support for the Leap into Science website. 

Erin Stafford Image

Erin Stafford

Lead Evaluator

Erin Stafford is a Senior Research Associate at the Education Development Center. She leads the project’s evaluation efforts including evaluation design, data collection and analysis, and dissemination of findings to project partners.

Lynn Dierking Picture

Lynn Dierking

Lead Researcher

Lynn Dierking is the Senior Researcher & Director for Strategy and Partnerships at the Institute for Learning Innovation, and co-Principal Investigator of Leap into Science. With Debbie Siegel and Scott Pattison, she is researching how families develop and sustain science interests through participation in this program.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did Leap into Science begin?

Leap into Science began in 2007 as a partnership between The Franklin Institute and the Free Library of Philadelphia, and then expanded to select pilot sites nationally from 2011-2017, with the support of grants from NSF and IMLS. These partners worked together to develop, test, and refine curriculum and training resources to empower informal educators to engage underserved children and caregivers in urban settings.

What does a Leap into Science workshop look like?

Leap into Science workshops are designed for children ages 3-10 and families, and integrate hands-on science explorations with thematically-linked children’s picture books. The books often set the stage for an exploration, allowing children and caregivers to ask questions and make predictions about a scientific phenomenon in a book before (or after) doing it themselves.

What topics do Leap into Science programs include?

Topics include balance, wind and air, light and shadows, sound, water, structures, inventions, measurement, magnets, and more. The science concepts addressed in these resources are meant to be easily observed and experienced in children’s everyday lives and emphasize scientific thinking as well as science content.

Where are Leap into Science programs be offered?

To see if a program is being offered in your area, check The Connectory for listings of upcoming workshops in participating states. Leap into Science workshops happen usually take place in community settings like libraries, museums, community centers, and afterschool programs.

How can I get involved?

See the Partners page for a listing of states where the program is currently offered.  See the Join Us page to sign-up for a training in participating states, or apply to be a state leader for a new state. The program will be offered in more states each year.


Leap into Science is based upon work supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grants DRL-0714658, DRL-1223730, DRL-1712878. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Science Foundation.  This project is also made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.