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History & Philosophy


Elon Explorers began in 2019 as an idea inspired by the positive impact of the Elon Academy. Founders recognized that middle school students in Alamance County needed opportunities to explore academic content in fun, engaging programs so that they will develop a vision for the futures in high school and potentially college.  Drs. Enfield and Hamel began having conversations about their shared commitment to helping middle school students see themselves as scientists.  In 2019, they began writing small grants to local foundations to offer the first summer program. Since that time, the program has received funding from The Alamance Community Foundation, Alamance Achieves, Carolina Biological, Labcorp, and Elon University.  In 2021, Drs Hamel and Enfield were successful in receiving a Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant for Student Science Enrichment Programs. This new funding allows the program to expand the one-week summer camp and include year-round programming and a spring-break institute. 



Elon Explorers is built around some core principles about understanding the world. The program values curiosity and wonder, making sense of data and observations, thinking critically and creatively, communication of understandings and explanations, and engaging in a community of thinkers and explorers.  These values are represented in original logo with the words ‘wonder’ and ‘share.’ The icon of a light bulb represents an idea in the creative mind of the thinker. Each of these points are further elaborated on below. Elon Explorers positions science as a human activity to explain and predict what happens in the natural world. 

The Elon Explorers program is also committed to developing individuals’ identities and affiliations. As a discipline, Western science has historically marginalized certain voices and not welcomed all individual identities. The Elon Explorers program intends to include, engage, and nurture every person who is interested and passionate about learning about the natural world and the nature of science. 

Curiosity and Wonder 

Elon Explorers encourages and supports the curiosity and wonder of every participant. This is driven by the belief that our questions and wonders serve as the foundation for the construction of new knowledge and understandings about the world.  When we are curious and wonder, we are motivated to carefully observe the world. This sets the stage for thinking analytically and critically about our observations and about patterns in those observations. Curiosity and wonder make doing and learning science exciting. 

Critical thinking and Creativity 

Critical thinking requires an ability to think creatively about complex ideas. While sometimes seen as disparate activities, Elon Explorers is built on the notion that seeing patterns in data, making connections, and even representing ideas and concepts are activities that connect with creativity. Therefore, activities and programs invite, encourage, and even scaffold creation and creative expression. 


Elon Explorers recognizes that these activities occur in communities of practice. A community of practice is a group of people working together with a shared purpose using shared values. The activities and participants in this program are purposely selected to support the development of a community of practice. This means that the program intentionally includes university faculty, classroom teachers, university students, high school students, middle school students, and families. Each of these participants are part of the ecosystem that makes the community effective. 

Sharing knowledge through communication

There are many reasons for conducting inquiries, engaging in critical thinking, and creativity generating representations. However, once a student has an idea worth sharing, what happens to it? Wonderers and knowers share that knowledge with others through communication. Elon Explorers values communication and believes everyone who knows something deserves to be heard. Therefore, the program situates communication as a core value that plays out in moment-to-moment interactions as well as in public forums. 

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