innovateNJ: Initiatives

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.

Innovative Initiatives

New Jersey Hosting Teacher Professional Development for Agricultural Science Curriculum

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Innovative Programming – Allentown High School

At Allentown High School, our agricultural science programs are utilizing technology found in the industry and in the post-secondary setting. Students in the biotechnology course utilize electrophoresis chambers to analyze DNA fragments, the thermal cycler to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to prep DNA for further analysis, and various Vernier LabQuest sensors such as the spectrometer and temperature probes. Lastly, as an integral part of these processes, students utilize computers to analyze DNA fragments.

Students also utilize technology across the agricultural science program. As a part of their Greenhouse Management course, students use soil moisture probes to track the water needs of plants, temperature probes to compare greenhouse glazing effects on soil.  During their Animal and Plant Science, students use carbon dioxide sensors, temperature probes, dissolved oxygen sensors, and conductivity probes. These same probes are used in their Wildlife and Aquaculture course to continuously monitor water quality and fish health, providing a great interdisciplinary learning opportunity. To summarize their learning across the agricultural science disciple, students utilize word processing, presentation, and analytical software to conduct research and complete lab reports.

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During a lab, students develop laboratory protocol to extract DNA from Kiwi Fruit. After the protocol is written, students must execute the lab. The DNA will be used in a future experiment.

Allentown PhotoAllentown Photo

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After students have extracted DNA from the Kiwi, they must next make agarose gels for electrophoresis. Students then restrict bacterial DNA samples with various restriction enzymes. They compare the restriction sites among the different enzymes. They also compare the unrestricted kiwi sample for distance from the well

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The New Jersey Department of Education Division of Early Childhood Wins! – Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge

New Jersey's commitment to using preschool access as a key lever in closing the achievement gap has been heralded as a national model.  In fact, New Jersey "has transformed preschools in its poorest urban communities into a high-quality system of pre-K that attracts visitors from around the globe to see world-class early education". However, in just the last few years, the state has continued to push further and expand access to high quality early care and learning opportunities, while at the same time broadening its focus to take a more inclusive, system-wide approach to improving the lives of its youngest and most vulnerable children; heeding the research that shows disparities begin even before a child is born.

Through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant, which brings $44.3 million to the state, New Jersey will implement a systematic approach to prenatal to age eight services. The RTT-ELC grant reflects the shared leadership, collaboration, input, and long-term commitment across four core state agencies—Education (DOE), Children and Families (DCF), Health (DOH), and Human Services (DHS)—and the New Jersey Council for Young Children (NJCYC) that includes our other public, private, state and local partners.

One of the 11 plans incorporated into the RTT-ELC grant, involves sustaining gains made in preschool across all domains for children in preschool through 3rd grade. While there are many aspects to this work, such as conducting an embedded administrator and teacher series, which will assist administrators and teachers with implementing optimal instructional practices, the plan also allows us to pilot a technology based early learning tool in preschool through 3rd grade.

New Jersey will conduct a Request for Proposals in September 2014 to secure a vendor by September 2015 to integrate technology as a strategy to help ensure children's success in developing literacy and math skills starting in preschool, through third grade. DOE will pilot a tablet-based software application for students in grades preschool through third with a focus on literacy and math, by creating a steering committee that selects a research-based tablet that is grade-appropriate and inclusive of educational software applications for literacy and math. Over the life of this innovative pilot, we plan to:

  • Invite pilot classrooms in Priority and Focus Schools.
  • Conduct initial and ongoing training and coaching for teachers and administrators.
  • Monitor program progress using metrics identified by the steering committee, including at a minimum pre- and post-tests evaluation of efficacy.

Barnett, W. S. (2013). Fulfilling the promise of universal pre-k. National Institute for Early Education Research. Preschool Matters. Retrieved October 9, 2013 from Preschool Matters

Lu, M. C., Kotelchuck, M, Hogan, V. K., Johnson, K., Reyes, C. (2010) Innovative Strategies to Reduce Disparities in the Quality of Prenatal Care in Underresourced Settings Med Care Res Rev 67: 198S-230S

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