The San Gabriel Valley Science Education Partnership Award Collaborative (SGV SEPAC) is a partnership between City of Hope (COH), a Comprehensive Cancer Center and biomedical research institute, and Duarte Unified School District (DUSD), an 80% minority school district in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. Other partners include Pasadena City College and a stand-alone research and education non-profit called Oak Crest Institute of Science. The primary activity of the SGV SEPAC is the summer research project, in which high school students will receive instruction about and conduct true inquiry research projects in the context of a dedicated Community Teaching Laboratory housed on the COH campus. The goal is to offer a less intimidating, more nurturing and enriching research experience than traditional summer programs that take place in full-blown research labs. Select students from the summer program will go on to conduct a school-year research project in COH and OCIS labs, now with the background knowledge, skills, and confidence to be productive contributors to these labs'research programs. We are also proposing a teacher- focused professional development program. This will be a three-session workshop series presented in the spring of each year. Teachers will learn the same content, research methodology and techniques that will be presented to students the following summer. They will receive teaching materials and protocols to take back to their classrooms. Teachers who complete the spring workshop will also be involved in teaching the didactic portion of the summer research program and work side-by-side with students in the laboratory portion of the program. These experiences will help teachers reinforce the concepts learned by their students in the summer research program and also disseminate that information during the school year to a wider base of students who could not participate in the summer program. Finally, a smaller component of the proposed activities will be directed at K-8 students. These will include visits to 2nd grade classrooms by COH scientists and field trip visits to the COH campus by groups of 5th grade and 8th grade students. Fifth grade students will take a campus tour, visit COH labs and talk with scientists to learn about careers in research. Eighth grade students will engage in grade-appropriate experimental activities in the Community Teaching Lab to whet their appetite for research and pique their interest in applying for the summer research program during their high school years. Taken together, these programs are intended to be positive research experiences that are more likely than traditional laboratory activities to have a lasting, engaging effect on our target group of high school students, thus increasing their chances for pursuing careers in biomedical research. Rigorous evaluation using logic model assessment planning tools will ensure timely feedback on our successes and failures and allow for rapid program improvement and dissemination of best practices.
Published research has established a solid connection between inquiry-based science education and enhanced learning and retention in science-related studies in college and beyond, but few of these types of experiences are available for underrepresented minority students to work in biomedical research facilities. The major outcome of the project will be a new research education program for students in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, including an inquiry-based research summer research project conducted in the City of Hope Community Teaching Laboratory;a school-year research experience;and a minimum of three earlier exposures to biomedical research careers in grades K-8. Teacher professional development is another key element of the program. These programs are expected to be positive research experiences that are more likely than traditional mentored research programs to have a lasting, engaging effect on our target group of students, thus increasing the number of underrepresented minority students pursuing careers in biomedical research.