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Bringing Science to Life in a Harlem Middle School

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Bringing Science to Life in a Harlem Middle School

Professor Angela Calabrese Barton

Why don't more young students get turned on by science? Angela Calabrese Barton, Director of TC's Urban Science Center, says that the Center's goals are aimed at opening new opportunities for students to enjoy this important subject. "We want kids to think critically about science in their lives, and to move into science careers if they want," Barton says, "and we want them to become excited about it, with opportunities to interact with scientists and role models who are from their community."

Mostly African-American and Latino students attend The Harlem Middle School for Mathematics and Science (HMSMS), a facility that will soon be adding seventh and eighth grade classes to its existing fifth and sixth grades. HMSMS is working with Barton, her Urban Science Fellows, local museums and cultural organizations on a variety of projects to make science come alive for the school's students. This new District 3 middle school, located in a high-poverty area, is the only one to focus on mathematics and science in central Harlem.

Engaged in projects at HMSMS are TC's four Urban Science Fellows-one is a doctoral student, two are student teachers and another is a Rose Fellow, funded by former trustee Elihu Rose. The fellowships are selected competitively and are open to students committed to bringing innovation to high-poverty urban schools.

During the afternoons, after instruction in core academic subjects is completed, the Urban Science Center and HMSMS's science teachers collaborate on a program in which kids explore a particular question or issue in an interdisciplinary way.

Currently, Barton is working with teachers to develop a curriculum for the school year that looks at environmental justice in the Central Harlem community. The materials developed will be shared with the Urban Science Center's other District 10 school partners, including MS 306 and the Science and Technology Center, and with collaborating community organizations. The school and the Urban Science Center are also engaged in projects that study air, water and soil quality in cooperation with the West Harlem Environmental Action Center and other local agencies.

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