The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 12, 2009

CCHS embarks on new science program, Hooked on Science

A large storage room, used years ago for auto mechanics, is being transformed into a research lab as part of a new program at the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) called Hooked on Science. The program is to include seminars and after school activities, and will provide opportunities for students to participate in independent science projects. Down the road, successful seminar topics may be adapted into new elective science classes. The Concord Education Fund has raised over $150,000 toward the new program, and granted over $50,000 as an initial investment to get the project off the ground. Furniture and equipment is on order and the room will be functional by the fall.

Science Department Chair Mike Vela described the new series of seminars that will be taught by different teachers on a variety of scientific subjects over the next few years. Teachers are excited about the new program and topics have been chosen through the fall of 2011. Modeled after the Ruettgers Lecture Series on the liberal arts, the science seminars were kicked off this spring with a 12-week seminar in engineering. Chemistry teacher Jacqueline Travers ran the 90-minute segments on engineering, but has since been laid off due to budget cuts. Regarding the recent teacher layoffs, Vela said, “Even though things aren’t good, we are moving forward.”

“The plan is to have two new seminars a year,” said Vela. In the fall, biology teacher Jennifer Benson will be running a seminar on bio-technology. Later in the year an Advanced Geology Seminar will be given by earth science teacher Ray Pavlik.

Students need to apply to get into these seminars and a panel of four will choose roughly 15 students per seminar. Those students who participate will receive a letter in their transcript and one credit. Vela explained that the goal is that the seminar will become a full elective class in the future.

Vela believes the lab equipment will aid student learning, “Students in science should have a way to do independent field work. We want to provide more opportunities here. There is instrumentation that students should be exposed to.” Vela has many ideas for uses of the new lab. Independent projects may develop into a science fair and a year-long course may be developed for independent study. The use of the equipment will also be incorporated into existing classes.

In addition to the seminar in the fall, a Robotics Club will be starting up. Vela hopes that students will get involved in the Botball and or First Robotics Competitions. He is currently looking for a computer programmer from the community to help with this new club.

Currently, six or seven students are helping with a Blandings Turtle Study run by Concord herpetologist Bryan Windmiller. Vela hopes this will jumpstart fieldwork. The Gulf of Maine Institute deals with schools in the watershed from Canada to Massachusetts. If students do research for one year, they can go to an annual conference which has been held at Tufts University where they present their findings. In addition, they can do further research for a week on Thompson Island.

In addition to major support from the Concord Education Fund, Vela is looking for community and industry partnership to help with the costs of the program. Equipment, such as a tabletop autoclave sterilizer, a flask/test tube shaker, a shaking water bath, a Polymerase Chain Reaction thermocycler machine, a micro-centrifuge and other items are still needed for the biotechnology seminar in the fall. Vela would welcome industry partnerships and donations of used equipment or annual supplies.

The Concord Education Fund has established a Hooked on Science Advisory Committee made up of people with backgrounds in academia and industry. John Boynton, chair of the advisory committee explained that his group “holds the purse strings,” working in collaboration with the CCHS Science Department to ensure that appropriate equipment is purchased. He noted that teacher stipends will be funded; however, “the bulk of the funding for this program is for equipment and supplies.”

Boynton hopes the program will not only help the students of CCHS, but might serve as a model for high schools across the state and the country. More information can be found at the Concord Education Fund website: ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito