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innovateNJ Initiatives are innovative programs and projects that are happening within New Jersey schools and districts with the support of the New Jersey Department of Education.
Bergen County Academies Hack-a-Thon
Randolph SOLE Program
Hybrid Pilot Program
Across America, in any college, in any town, students are busy learning foundational and consequential subjects. Unlike the traditional lecture in days of yore, today's college students are likely to attend classes that are a blend of face-to-face and online meetings. These "blended" or "hybrid" courses allow for learning that is student-led and directed, which can result in deeper understanding. At BCIT in Westampton, high school students have been given the chance to learn a new subject and practice the soft skills so necessary for success in college.
West teachers are piloting three electives this fall, two sections of Human Behavior and one section of Forensic Science. Though the original plan was for two classes, the program was so popular that a third class was added. All three classes are filled to capacity, yet students are still applying for admission. Participating students are issued a Chromebook for their classes, which meet after school once per week for a two hour session and once per week online for an hour. Classes are inquiry-based and student-led. Last week, while teachers were meeting with parents for back-to-school night, students were meeting online to discuss the background, theories, and beliefs of famous psychologists.
Skye Fowler, a junior at BCIT, enrolled in Human Behavior as her interest lies in neuropsychology. She believes that if you can "enhance the time you spend somewhere, you should do that." Skye's goal is to get as much out of her high school years as she can. Though the class has seen some minor bumps, mostly due to technical issues, she is enjoying the creativity of the lessons and is excited to delve deeper into what drives human behavior.
Student Kayla Pearson didn't join until September. She was intrigued because one of her peers was enjoying the experience; unlike Skye, Kayla isn't sure what she wants to pursue in the future. She plans to explore as many topics as possible until she finds her place. The sensitive topics introduced in this course are captivating for Kayla, and she eagerly anticipates the weightier subjects to come.
The hybrid classes are a win for students and a win for the school community. The ability to extend the school day and pique student interest is invaluable, and staff members are busy planning ways to expand the program in the future.
Liberty Science Center and Jersey City District Science Fair
As a Liberty Science Center staff member, it was a great privilege for me to meet future STEM scientists in their natural habitat—outside of school, presenting their amazing work. Students in grades 5-8 had been working on their investigations since the fall, and had successfully competed in science fairs at their schools. Now, these young scientists had an opportunity to express their genius in a public setting, in this case Liberty Science Center, and present their investigations in a poster board session at the Jersey City District Science Fair on January 11.
Image by Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal
Liberty Science Center's Governors Hall and Jennifer Chalsty Center for Science Learning and Teaching were organized with row after row of elaborate posters that were placed with care by the young scientists waiting to share their investigations and results with a judge. Each judge was given a folder with a rubric that defines what is expected of each student to get a particular score on their presentation and display.
At 9:00 am the energy in Governors Hall and the Chalsty Center seemed to be charged with excitement as the judging was underway. As a judge, I too was feeling the excitement. How can you not, when the eyes of these creative individuals start to dart around trying to guess at who will be the one to listen to their presentation? By 11:00 am, the judging was over. The air of excitement soon settled to one of curiosity and the young scientists began to relax and behave as all young visitors do when they are in the science center, exploring the environment around them.
The top three projects from each grade level will go on to compete in the Hudson County Science Fair. The first-place students and projects from each grade:
"I love having the opportunity to partner with Liberty Science Center to create a space for students to not only share their knowledge but also their imaginations," said Dr. Darrell S. Carson, K-8 Science Supervisor of Jersey City Public Schools. "The scientific process teaches students that pushing through failures can yield incredible discoveries using their knowledge and creativity."
Judging at the science fair, I met ten bright minds that perfectly illustrate Dr. Carson's point. I wish all participants continued success.
Rosa Catala-Steidle is the Director of STEM Innovation and Media at Liberty Science Center. Rosa manages the Live From Surgery program and the Electronic Field Trip program.
Liberty Science Center STEM Afterschool Program
In collaboration with Jersey City Public Schools, Liberty Science Center developed a transformative afterschool STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program. Embarking on its first year of operation, the STEM afterschool program serves as a daily workshop designed for middle school students.
The afterschool program curriculum highlights content areas such as reverse engineering, coding and programming, energy and sustainability, data visualization and other connections to STEM careers in today's workforce.
These daily STEM workshops are currently presented to students at Franklin L. Williams School (MS 7) and Joseph H. Brensinger School (PS 17). Last month, students were introduced to a computer science project that allowed them to engage with robots as a way to make connections to algorithms. Currently, the students are learning Scratch, a basic programming language developed by Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT).
As the afterschool program progresses, the Liberty Science Center will add some excitement into the mix by allowing students to program custom commands that will allow robots to perform different tasks. With the technology sector expanding rapidly, we hope this experience sparks interest and excitement in computer science.
At a glance - Authentic Research
Students are getting into the mindset for conquering the Students Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) Mission 9. SSEP was launched in 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks. SSEP is designed to follow the STEM education initiative as the students design and propose real microgravity experiments to be completed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Students are experimenting with salt wedges to build a foundation on how gravity affects everything on Earth. Students communicated and collaborated as a group to brainstorm and share brilliant ideas of what they could possibly test in microgravity from this simple experiment. Their ideas ranged from how density would react in microgravity to how different organisms evolve in microgravity. As a whole we dug deep into the simple salt wedge experiment and made it more complex talking about estuaries and then collaborating on what organisms develop and thrive in brackish water and how ecosystems are affected. Students then ended the lab analyzing the FEM Tube and brainstormed how they would set up this experiment in the tube to be sent to the ISS.