A ground-breaking approach to science education has made startling gains among inner-city students, traditionally one of the lowest-performing groups.
The program was launched by a high school chemistry teacher who made a startling discovery. “We found that our assumptions about our students were entirely incorrect. Rather than being unmotivated and uninterested, our students were actually very interested in chemistry! We found that many were doing research projects after school. Some had even built pharmaceutical laboratories in their homes. Our excitement was considerable to have such talented and motivated students.”
Looking for ways to tap into this large, self-motivated student body, the staff designed a curriculum using real-life examples that were familiar to the students. “Back when our curriculum examples used fuel and oxygen, our students struggled to understand the concept of limiting reagents. Now, with our examples of cough syrup and other common home-laboratory items, student interest has skyrocketed. Classroom attendance has doubled. Performance on standardized tests is among the best in the state – and that is a distinction that few inner-city educational systems can claim.”
Another staff member added, “Quite a few of our students do advanced independent research. They have discovered on their own what we have long been trying to teach: that the scientific fields are very profitable and make a commendable career choice.” When asked about the potential for this program, he mentioned that the economics teacher and government teacher had also seen potential for increasing student interest by tapping into popular urban extra-curricular activities for real-life examples. "It's all about making education applicable."
The innovative program is being considered for several awards and for state funding and has been developed by the district as Advanced Pharmaceutical Research 1 (APR-1).