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Emory students' nonprofit helps kids' interest in science bloom

Georgia Blossom leaders include Emory students (left to right) Yusur Alsalihi, founder Gabriela Korobkov and Jenna Cariker. Emory Photo/Video

There’s nothing that says an Emory College student majoring in political science and Russian and East European Studies can’t launch a science-focused nonprofit.

So Gabriela Korobkov did. Georgia Blossom offers local elementary school students flower-press kits designed to observe and record flowers native to the Peach State.

Now a senior, she got the idea when she was volunteering at an elementary school during her sophomore year at Oxford College. Some of the students couldn’t grasp geometric shapes until she physically created the shapes for them to touch.

“I was writing a paper on education for a political theory course and realized I was talking about the issue without any practical experience,” says Korobkov, who goes by Kova. “Once I was in the classroom, I saw how important hands-on learning is, for me and for them.”

The kits arrive in a papier-mache box and include a journal listing plants common to Georgia. Child-proof scissors allow students to trim their preferred plant, and there is a handmade wood press to do the hard work of flattening the plants.

Students are encouraged to explore for plants, keeping them active, while also instructing them on the rudimentary steps of the scientific process by answering where they found a plant, what it looks like and other such questions.

Kova launched the business in January, joined a few months later by her friend Yusur Alsalihi, a senior chemistry and philosophy major. They also “hired” student volunteers, sophomore Aniqa Premjee and junior Jenna Cariker, with the help of the Career Center, to help fulfill their goal of providing the kits to schools in metro Atlanta.

“What motivates me is that it’s a small thing but it can be huge in impact,” Alsalihi says. “It shows the simplicity and unity of science.”

The students reached out to elementary schools, PTA groups and elsewhere to find students who could use their creations. They have since created and delivered more than 130 kits, including to students at schools in Alpharetta and Decatur.

Two kits also went to Amy Moore, director of research programs at the Georgia Research Alliance. Although she didn’t reach out in an official capacity, Moore says she was excited enough about the prospects of an all-female, STEM-based startup to offer introductions to leaders in at-risk schools who might especially need the kits.

And Moore’s 8-year-old daughter declared the kit “very cool,” while her 5-year-old son was able to press and identify flowers with adult help.

 “There may be a larger opportunity for them,” Moore says. “As a woman scientist, I want to support that.”

The team is now reviewing next steps as Kova prepares for graduate school in a bid to become a political analyst and Alsalihi aims for medical school. But they continue to make flower-press kits and update their Instagram page with other kid-friendly science projects.

Both Kova and Alsalihi are from the metro Atlanta area and have engaged other Emory students who can continue making and delivering the kits and developing the latest idea, to offer science and math tutoring in under-served areas.

“I’m not quite sure what will become of it, but we are all committed to this kind of service,” Kova says. “It’s the very definition of a common good.”

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