The Quantum Foundation has awarded Palm Beach Atlantic University a grant for $175,000 over three years for a collaborative project that adopts an innovative approach to science education for middle school students.
A team of PBA faculty from various disciplines will work with science teachers at nearby Conniston Middle School through professional development sessions and by implementing laboratory modules in the classroom. The program’s fun, unconventional activities are designed to help students learn BIG IDEAS concepts and Florida Department of Education standards in science.
|Palm Beach Atlantic University students assisted with a tutoring program at Conniston Middle School last spring.|
“At Quantum, we are focused and energized about our recent grants to improve and enhance science education,” said Quantum Foundation President and Trustee Kerry Diaz. “This one is especially innovative because of the partners involved and the ability to touch not just teachers, but directly impact parents and their kids in our quest to get them more excited about science.”
The Center for Integrative Science Learning team at PBA includes faculty who are former K-12 teachers and administrators and professors with terminal degrees in education, mathematics, music, physics, art and chemistry. They will work closely with Conniston Middle School Principal Oscar Otero and science educators at the school.
The project is expected to reach all 1,100 students at the school by the end of the third year.
When the project is complete, curriculum and best practices will be shared with the School District of Palm Beach County. The project director, PBA Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Mireille Aleman, will publish findings in peer-reviewed journals and present at professional conferences to share best practices nationally.
“We’re excited about the paradigm shift we’re expecting this project to bring to middle schoolers,” Dr. Aleman said. “This is not just about teaching science. This is about restructuring young minds. This is about teaching students how to think for themselves.”
“Our school community is grateful for the generous support received from the Quantum Foundation,” Otero said. “This partnership with PBA’s faculty will serve to further develop our highly engaging and inquiry based model for teaching science. As we prepare students for a world in which the applications of scientific research, math and technology are evolving at unprecedented rates, they must develop as critical and independent thinkers. This partnership has great potential for sparking life-long interest in students as their minds are challenged in stimulating and creative ways.”
During the past school year, Dr. Aleman has been directing a pilot project at Conniston Middle. The project involved developing three hands-on laboratory modules that were used in teaching specific Palm Beach County BIG IDEA science concepts to 6th, 7th and 8th graders integrating the arts into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). This project was funded by a PBA Quality Initiative Grant.
Some of those laboratory modules will be integrated into the new program, Dr. Aleman said.
Other PBA faculty who will be working with Dr. Aleman are Dr. Chelly Templeton, associate professor of education; Jim Swick, assistant professor of mathematics; Dr. Fred Browning, associate professor of physics; Jim Craft, associate professor of art; and Dr. Marsha Guntharp, associate professor of mathematics.