Next school year, Science in Society will expand its partnerships with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to include Lake View High School, on the north side of Chicago.
This expansion is part of Northwestern University’s broad commitment to developing and supporting high-quality K-12 education in Chicago’s and Evanston’s underserved areas. Read more about the Northwestern University and CPS partnership in this press release.
Planning for Science in Society’s partnership with Lake View is already under way. Science in Society director Mike Kennedy emphasizes the center’s commitment to a community-driven, relationship-centered approach.
“Our process of partnering with a school or community group starts with listening,” Kennedy said. “The first step is getting to know the school’s leadership team, teachers, support staff, and students. We work jointly to identify the areas of need with which we can help.”
At Stephen T. Mather High School, another neighborhood CPS school on the northwest side, this collaborative process led to the development of a novel mentoring program for Mather freshmen called Science Explorers. In these early discussions, Mather leadership, teachers, and staff identified the transition from eighth to ninth grade as a significant hurdle for students. Research by the Consortium on Chicago School Research corroborates this concern. When students move from eighth to ninth grade, their grades drop, on average, by more than half a letter grade. For some students – even high-achieving ones – grades may decline by as much as two full GPA points.
Building on this research, as well as literature on school-day mentoring and building academic mindsets and behaviors, Science in Society researchers designed and piloted Science Explorers. The program pairs small groups of ninth graders with a scientist-mentor. Groups meet twice per week during the school day, and several times per week before or after school, for tutoring and enrichment.
The pilot in 2015-16 served 15 Mather freshmen. In 2016, the Science Explorers team expanded to five full-time Science in Society Science Education Fellows. These Fellows support 45 Science Explorers students before, during, and after school. They also liaise with Mather science and math teachers, providing classroom support and helping to develop inquiry-based lab activities to support STEM learning.
“The biggest difference between this year and our pilot year is how connected the students are with the Fellows,” said Julianne Hatfield, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Science in Society and the Science Explorers program leader. “Because they are in the school full-time, in classrooms, and available for after-school tutoring and support, the Fellows have been able to form deep, academically-focused relationships with students.”
Like all Science in Society initiatives, building relationships will be at the core of the Center’s new Lake View partnership, and will inform the program’s growth.
“Collaborative models of engagement and program design, based in rigorous evaluation, lead to long-term success. We believe deeply in a collective impact model,” said Kennedy.
We are looking forward to working with teachers, students, and the leadership at Lake View to develop a sustainable and impactful STEM education community for CPS students.