It wasn’t all that long ago when 17-year-old Nishant Mandapaty was a young kid exploring exhibits at the DuPage Children’s Museum – tinkering with valves and sparking his creativity.
And he’s still very much a part of the museum today, but this time he’s the teacher.
On any given weekend, you’ll find the Neuqua Valley High School senior helping kids understand math and science concepts by working as a volunteer at the museum. Since last October, Mandapaty has volunteered more than 100 hours with the museum.
“When I was a kid, I grew up in Naperville, and I went to the museum,” he said. “I really liked learning the concepts there and going to school a couple of years later and learning some of the same things.”
With science and math making such a large impact on his life, he wanted to make sure kids had the same experience. That’s when he got the idea to start Power Play exhibits.
Power Plays at the DuPage Children’s Museum are one hour-long breakout demonstrations, which teach higher-level math and science concepts for 7- to 10-year-olds. While floor exhibits are open to all age groups, Power Plays are geared toward school-aged kids to specifically help develop their skills.
“In the museum all of the exhibits are really interactive, so the kids kind of learn on their own,” he said. “I wanted to do something similar, but have more of an emphasis on the science and math part and I also wanted to interact with the kids more.”
His passion for science can be found both outside and inside the classroom. Along with volunteering this past school year and throughout the summer at the museum, Mandapaty spent three weeks in July taking a biotech course at the University of Pennsylvania.
And as another school year quickly approaches, Mandapaty will certainly have a full schedule with volunteering as well as applying to colleges, where he plans on majoring in the field of science.
But even when his life gets too busy, or pressures at school mount, Mandapaty said he looks forward to volunteering as it helps clear his mind.
“When I have a lot of work or something on my mind, it’s fun to go into the museum just to take a break,” he said. “It also helps me get ideas for (school projects) sometimes, too.”
Mandapaty said he is constantly learning just by watching kids have fun while developing their skills, which is what makes volunteering at the DuPage Children’s Museum such a unique experience for him.
“When I volunteer there that’s really what I hope to achieve with the kids because they kind of intuitively learn the concepts without it being structured like it is in school,” he said. “So they’re playing with the exhibits, but at the same time they’re still learning those math and science concepts while having fun.”
For more information on the DuPage Children's Museum, visit http://www.dupagechildrensmuseum.org/GeneralInfo.html