Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Astrobiology/Art, and Math

University of Washington Prison Outreach Program

About Us

We are a group of University of Washington Astrobiology PhD students committed to raising the eSTEAM (education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Astrobiology/Art, Mathematics) of incarcerated youth in the Seattle area with one-on-one tutoring and exciting hands-on science experiments. We founded eSTEAM to provide vital educational support and mentorship to incarcerated students to help them navigate a new path and reconnect them to a life outside the system. We are fighting to mitigate the vicious cycle of crime and punishment and the social inequities that it deepens.

According to the ACLU, nearly 60,000 children are currently incarcerated in the United States. In the state of Washington alone, 149 children for every 100,000 residents are confined in prisons and jails. Though they are entitled to an education while housed in any one of the 80 youth correctional facilities located in the US, evidence suggests that these programs are severely lacking with irregular school hours, consistent interruptions, uneven or unavailable learning materials, and limited class offerings. In fact, physics classes were offered at only 8% of schools under the purview of the juvenile justice system compared with 60% of public high schools.

Racial inequities that exist in most other areas of society, including STEM professions like astronomy, are also reproduced in youth prisons and jails. Regardless of gender, children of color are overrepresented in the penal system; Black youth are four times more likely than their white peers to be both detained in or sentenced to juvenile facilities.

Even if incarcerated children manage to leave these facilities, their outcomes do not often improve. Studies show that youth who have been incarcerated have a high likelihood of returning to the system in the future, with 49.6% of youth released in 2015 from juvenile rehabilitation in Washington ultimately recidivating. Even worse, two-thirds of incarcerated children do not return to school upon being released; historically, less than 25% of incarcerated people obtain high school diplomas or GEDs, and less than 13% attain a college degree.

We founded eSTEAM with the conviction that compassionate mentorship and quality education can disrupt this cycle and reconnect incarcerated children to their communities and the world.

We leverage our advanced degrees and diverse backgrounds to provide much-needed one-on-one tutoring to middle through high school students at a juvenile rehabilitation center located near Seattle. We have tutored dozens of students in subjects including Astronomy, Geometry, Algebra, Biology, Chemistry, Spanish, Art History, English Literature, Financial Math, and Health Sciences. More recently, we have also begun to leverage university resources and private funding to provide unique, hands-on science experiments for the students after-school (see our publicly available lesson plans with more to come!). Since we began our initiative in February 2022, we have had the privilege of witnessing eSTEAM-supported students graduate or complete their time at the correctional facility and pursue more traditional education.

As scientists, while we have committed ourselves to a lifetime of learning how the universe works, we have also taken on the responsibility to share that knowledge with everyone, particularly incarcerated students with limited access to a quality education. Together, we are acting as mentors to spark ceaseless curiosity in our students and light the way towards a brighter future.

Our Volunteers

This program wouldn't be possible without the work of our spectacular group of volunteers - you can read more about each of them below!

Samantha Gilbert-Janizek


PhD Student in Astronomy & Astrobiology

Guadalupe Tovar Mendoza


PhD Student in Astronomy & Astrobiology

Autum R. Downey


PhD Student in Geomicrobiology (Earth & Space Sciences)

Liza Young


Astrobiology Program Administrator

Megan Gialluca


PhD Student in Astronomy & Astrobiology

Samantha Garza


PhD Student in Astronomy

Lucas Fifer


PhD Student in Earth & Space Sciences, Astrobiology Program

Pete Wynn


PhD Student in Geochemistry & Astrobiology

Jake Kurlander


PhD Student in Astronomy

Recent News

Check out the articles below for some recent news about eSTEAM!

Teaching Resources

This section includes a regularly updated collection of resources for teaching - use the buttons to explore our different lesson resources!

Contact Us

Want to hear more about the program or get involved? Are you trying to set up your own prison outreach program? Do you have any other questions? Send us an email with one of the buttons below!