The Brooklyn College GK-12 CITY AS LAB (BC-CAL) project aims to achieve four essential goals: 1) better equip graduate students for successful careers as scientists (academic, governmental, business); 2) improve the ability of urban high school teachers associated with the "Small School" movement to teach science in an authentic and community-based fashion; 3) enhance learning of science for students in grades 9-12; and 4) create an enduring, cooperative network of educational partners that includes Brooklyn College, thematic Brooklyn-based high schools, NYC DOE, and informal science partners of Brooklyn. The intellectual merit of this project focuses on answering the questions "How can GIS software be employed to best address the needs of teachers and students in secondary school STEM education? How can community partners best use their resources to aid science-themed small schools in meeting national, state and local science standards?" Broader impacts include but are not limited to expansion of graduate fellows' skills, improvement of research skills of K-12 teachers, and improvement of 9-12 STEM education.

Project Report

The Brooklyn College GK-12 ‘City as Lab’ Project (NSF #0638718) Outcomes Report Between 2007 and 2013, the Brooklyn College "City as Lab project" developed excellent synergy between the GK-12 program and Fellows and six urban, highly diverse public high schools in Brooklyn which lacked full capacity to include inquiry-based activities in science classes. During the program, Fellows learned a great deal about effective teaching at both the high school and college levels, and a few shifted their professional goals from research-intensive careers to those that included science education at the high school or college levels. Several Fellows’ success in obtaining in early-college and college-level teaching positions was attributed to their experience as GK-12 Fellows. The Fellows valued the project’s training in clear communication (speaking and writing about science) and creating effective graphics for presentations. The Fellows also gave high marks to the impact of professional development seminars on leadership, networking, developing credentials for professional success, learning negotiation skills, and making good use of mentors, as well as learning about new initiatives in the scholarship of teaching and learning. Women and minority Fellows also learned how to negotiate the special problems that can impede the professional progress of individuals from these groups. Groups of Fellows and teachers annually attended and presented at GK-12 conferences, which facilitated team building as well as being professionally valuable for the participants. A number of Fellows also presented posters and talks at professional disciplinary conferences on their work on the GK-12 project that yielded connections to professionals in their fields interested in improved STEM teaching. The collaboration also yielded a rich set of active-learning curriculum materials based on using the Borough of Brooklyn and other locations in New York City as venues for research activities that supplemented the standard science classes taught in the high schools. These materials include research activities spanning topics in earth and environmental science, biology, chemistry, psychology, forensics, research design, research writing and presentation and professional development. In addition to the teaching materials, students presented posters at the Annual Brooklyn College Science Day between 2008 and 2013; electronic versions of these posters also became part of the project’s deliverables. GK-12 Fellows provided digital copies of all the curriculum materials that they developed to their respective high school science teachers so that the teachers can reuse or expand on them in subsequent years in science classes. All the materials were also posted on a permanent open website hosted by Brooklyn College’s Center for Achievement in Science Education, with the URL of: Overall, the program was successful for GK-12 Fellows, high school teachers and administrators, and the students. The work was important from an intellectual merit standpoint, in involving a well-functioning team of faculty for an array of disciplines, Fellows, teachers and students in high quality, place-based interdisciplinary research activities that demonstrated how to use the neighborhoods and communities around the school and in the greater New York City area as a forum for effective STEM teaching and learning. The program provided opportunities for teachers to learn how to plan ways to more deeply engage their students; these curriculum materials will be permanently available to teachers in participating schools and others interested in developing ways to engage urban students in city-based research activities on the project website. At the same time, the program helped Fellows develop their teaching and leadership skills, based on demonstrated best practices in fostering the professional skills of STEM graduate students. These aspects also contributed to the broader impacts of the project. Additional broader impacts derived from the fact that the students in participating urban schools were primarily from under-represented, low-income groups. They also participated in trips to Brooklyn College to learn about the college experience, including the visit to some research facilities, which increased their interest, motivation and confidence about attending college and majoring in a science.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Graduate Education (DGE)
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Sonia Ortega
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CUNY Brooklyn College
United States
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