What is science? One hundred middle school students and 20 teachers from 12 Cleveland schools in the neighborhoods around University Circle will strive to discover the answer to that question over the next three years when they participate in a new combined in-school and out-of-school program funded by the National Science Foundation.
Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME) has received a $786,000 grant from NSF to partner with neighboring University Circle institutions for Science in the Circle: Integrating Arts and Humanities into Authentic Science Experiences.
The collaboration is a partnership between Case and the Cleveland schools, with University Circle, Inc.; the Cleveland Museum of Natural History; the Cleveland Botanical Garden; the Western Reserve Historical Society; and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. The Cleveland Clinic will also support the program through assistance to teachers for instructional materials and in-service training to incorporate science, math and the arts in their classrooms.
Beginning in the sixth grade and continuing for three years, students will engage in “real science experiences,” said James Bader, director of the CSME at Case.
The program will center on themes from the popular JASON Project, a middle school science and technology program founded by explorer Robert Ballard, discoverer of the wreck of the RMS Titanic. During the in-school component, teachers and their students will use the multidisciplinary JASON curriculum in the classroom, exploring Disappearing Wetlands in the first year; Rainforests at the Crossroads, the second year; and Mysteries of the Earth and Mars, the third year.
During the out-of-school component, each student will spend 20 hours over five weeks at each partnering institution, and have the opportunity to investigate JASON inspired questions from the unique perspective of the host institutions. Each student will be assigned to a team that includes a teacher, a museum staff member, a Case student seeking a teaching license and a high school student mentor. Parents also will be involved as they participate in some of the activities. The program will continue in the seventh and eighth grades with the hope that a number of these students will pursue science courses in high school and college.
Students will gather on the Case campus in the summer to complete the science project they began during the year and make formal presentations before their parents, teachers, museum educators and other invited guests—much like scientists do at national meetings.
“The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is excited to participate in this program. Students will have the opportunity to see how the Museum works behind-the-scenes, and the ability to ask and find answers to questions they have about the natural world using real museum specimens and artifacts,” said Carin Miller, who holds the Gertrude Haskell Britton Endowed Chair of Education at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
“As a collector and preserver of the history of northeast Ohio, Western Reserve Historical Society has many artifacts and documents that provide information relevant to Ohio’s ‘Disappearing Wetlands,’” said Janice Ziegler, WRHS director of education.
Students will combine humanities with science at WRHS. For example, Ziegler said students will use archival materials as well as practice surveying over obstacles using the Gunter chain method of Moses Cleaveland’s team to compare terminology of the past with scientific information today, write plays dramatizing early tribulations presented by mosquito infested, malaria-ridden swampy areas and use artistry to create a 3-D swamp of early Western Reserve.
According to Bader, Science in the Circle hopes to reach five goals through the program:
As part of the evaluation process for the project, the Institute for Learning Innovation, a nonprofit organization from Annapolis, Md., that studies informal and free-choice learning, will look at how effective this program is in developing an interest in science as well as interest in visiting cultural arts institutions like the ones found in University Circle.
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