High school science teachers from six local school districts – including Chelsea High School’s Varn Seang – are bringing new, hands-on science labs into their classrooms for the 2021-22 school year. The year-long Life Science Change Agent Teachers Program (LSCAT) began in August with a free, week-long summer institute by AceraEI in partnership with Medford Public Schools, covering lab activities in gene-editing with CRISPR, microbiomics, and climate change. All three units featured relevant, cutting-edge technology and research aligned to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Fourteen teachers enrolled from the urban and suburban school districts of Boston, Burlington, Chelsea, Medford, Revere, and Swampscott. Seang and other participants learned how to edit a gene using CRISPR technology, cultivated and analyzed their own skin microbiome samples, and explored how new technologies use plants and photosynthesis as allies in the effort to mitigate climate change.
“This learning has been a great opportunity for teachers to take issues of modern science – like gene editing and climate change – and bring it into the classroom, making a positive impact on what students will be doing in the future,” said Dr. Marice Edouard-Vincent, Superintendent of Medford Public Schools. “I’m proud that AceraEI is partnering with Medford Public Schools to bring hands-on science education to a new level.”
The LSCAT summer institute at Medford High School was led by AceraEI Lab Sciences Specialist and Curriculum Creator Michael Hirsch, AceraEI Strategic Initiatives Manager Alexis Daniels, with support from Medford Public Schools Director of Science Rocco Cieri and Medford Public School Biotechnology & Environmental Science Teacher Norm Rousseau.
AceraEI’s Professional Development Workshops focus on learning by doing, incorporating key tenets of experiential education. Teachers engaged in experiments and spent collaborative working time envisioning implementation in their own classrooms. They also contemplated how these units serve the needs of their learners, in terms of developing critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creative skills, asking questions like: How can we engage diverse learners? How can we develop student identities as scientists? How can we encourage pathways to careers in science?
“Working with breakthrough technology and engaging in deep discussions to understand these innovations makes science labs meaningful and enables students to see a pathway for themselves as future scientists and innovators,” said Courtney Dickinson, founder and director of Acera. “As life science becomes Boston’s dominant industry, what better way to build a pipeline of talented youth than by bringing new and relevant science to local public schools?”
In addition to the summer institute, teachers have access to ongoing support, cohort meetups to share ideas and strategies on implementing the labs, and discussions with guest scientists. The goal is to assist schools in creating science labs that teach 21st century skills, engaging students in cutting-edge biology and fostering the next generation of innovators and scientists.
LSCAT workshops are funded through grants from both the Amgen Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb. To date, nearly 30 public school districts have participated in AceraEI’s free trainings, and many of its teachers are now applying the curriculum in their own classrooms with students.
Acera Education Innovations (AceraEI) partners with public school districts to bring its pilot-tested Tools to Transform Schools to public schools everywhere, fostering the next generation of scientists, innovators, and leaders. For more information, visit aceraei.org.
AceraEI’s lab school was founded in 2010. Acera School engages students in individualized, project-based learning that is designed around their passions and aligned with their own abilities. In addition to K-10th grade education, Acera offers daily after-school enrichment programs as well as February, April, and summer vacation camps. For more information, visit aceraschool.org.