Volunteering to Inspire the Next Generation of Scientists

This post was written by Danielle Freeman, World Class Manufacturing resource manager.

Imagine how satisfying it would be to prompt a kid to say “Thank you for making science something I want to know about again” — especially if you’re a scientist yourself. Clorox employees like me, who volunteer in our Science Education Program, actually hear words like that from the students we work with.

Danielle Freeman and Josh Frosch

Danielle Freeman and Josh Frosch coordinate Clorox’s Science Education Program in the Southeast.

Clorox employees have been volunteering as science educators for nearly 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the program expanded to the Metro Atlanta area (in addition to Midland, Michigan) just this year. Our Southeast program began when Elizabeth Donald made a presentation about the Science Education Program to an all-company meeting last fall. I was inspired to get involved, especially since some successful events had been put on in Georgia already. Together Elizabeth and I discussed the best ways to organize a volunteer team in Georgia and what our first event should be. We’ve modeled our structure and program on what’s been so successful for Clorox in the Bay Area, but we’ve also created some processes that the established Bay Area team will likely start using.

A Fast Start
Our fledgling Georgia team, led by me and Josh Frosch, a supply chain associate based in Alpharetta, started off with a booth at a career fair for kids in grades K through 12, to show them how important it is to stick with Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM). An external partner, SEM Link, organized the fair, and Clorox employees from our Alpharetta, Kennesaw and Forest Park locations volunteered. We wanted to be the booth that the kids all talked about, and we definitely met that goal. The kids were visiting us two and three times before they left the event, as well as bringing their parents to check us out. We also ended up with numerous requests for presentations.

Science fair

Fun experiments are geared to keeping kids interested in studying math and science.

While producing our first event, we simultaneously worked on our plan to develop a core team for the Southeast. When Josh and I sent out our first request, the first response came within 2 minutes, and 14 responses came within 7 minutes. At this time, we have 41 team members in the Southeast. In fact, so many people were interested in science education that we have co-coordinators on most roles, which should keep us a living, breathing team. And as team members learn more about our mission, we know that our network of supporters and volunteers will grow.

Since May, we have done five different events and have interacted with 458 future scientists. We have had 36 different volunteers provide approximately 162 volunteer hours with the kids — and this has been mainly during the summer months, when the kids aren’t even in school. We have received requests for different programs for the upcoming school year, and we look forward to continuing to show kids why STEM is the way to go.

We conduct experiments with the kids that inspire enthusiasm and build proficiency in science, usually with a theme like “An Inventors’ Extravaganza.” One of our favorite lessons demonstrates how our company uses science to meet and exceed our customer expectations. We have shown how bleach works and explained how computers “teach” equipment to function properly in our plants.

It’s fun to be at an event where parents are present and hear them “ooh and aah” over the science behind Fresh Step® cat litter, for example. Our volunteers are passionate about teaching kids and parents alike about Clorox, what we produce and how we want to be involved in our communities.

Broad-Based and Steady Support
I have been surprised by the amount of support there is at Clorox for volunteer efforts like this one. Developing this team is not part of my “regular job,” but at every turn there has been assistance and encouragement, helping us turn an idea into a real thing in a short time. Josh and I have appreciated the constant support from our WCO Leadership Team and WCO counterparts, as well as from Elizabeth Donald and her sponsor, senior vice president and chief innovation officer Wayne Delker. The Bay Area team has been there to help us along the way, and the Clorox employees in Alpharetta, Kennesaw and Forest Park have stepped up and said, “Tell me how to help.” How could anyone not be inspired by all that?

Even though we are new, we have a long-term vision: First we’re planning to ensure that the program continues to function even when the core team turns over. Other priorities include continuing to fine-tune our demos so they are clear and fun for kids, taking on mentoring opportunities in the Metro Atlanta area, and maybe even supporting internal events that remind Clorox employees why the STEM disciplines are important.

Danielle S. Freeman is going happily headlong into her second year with Clorox and is based in Kennesaw, Georgia.  She is passionate about volunteering for various organizations including sharing her home and family with foster dogs.  She has two teenagers, a son and daughter, and a significant other, Mark, and the coolest job in the universe.