When Center members expressed strong support for an outreach program to improve K-12 science education, the CfPA responded by initiating a partnership program with the Longfellow Middle School in Berkeley. Our goal is to support the faculty in developing an effective science program for this ethnically diverse group of students in grades 6 to 8. Central to this program is the recognition that our goal can only be accomplished through building trust with our partners by working in close relationship with the faculty and students at Longfellow.
Our team includes Center postdocs, senior scientists, administrative staff, and graduate students drawn from the Physics and Astronomy departments. Members of the team work in consultation with Longfellow teachers to develop experiments and activities which we present to the students in their classrooms. Working directly with them in small groups of four or five, we engage the students in a range of hands-on activities, such as constructing models of the human lung, building air-powered rocket ships, and generating electricity with water wheels.
While Longfellow has traditionally been an intermediate school for grades four through six, a recent district-wide reconfiguration of Berkeley's public schools designated Longfellow as a middle school to serve sixth through eighth grade students. For us this presents the opportunity to work with the school's science coordinator to help shape a science curriculum that will offer continuity across the three grades.
We're finding that the real highlight of our involvement is going to the school and doing science with the kids, and the positive feedback from both teachers and students has been encouraging. The partnership is proving to be a mutually rewarding one; while the teachers are appreciative of our support, it's also an opportunity for us to share our excitement and love of science with potential scientists of tomorrow.
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