Boeing Grant Will Enhance Meaningful Science Teaching


In high school classrooms across Chicago, students have been investigating ways that cities can use alternative energy for electricity. For this project, they analyze local resources to decide which energy source will generate the most electricity with the least impact on the environment.

The Meaningful Science Consortium brings such innovative project-based science to the Chicago Public Schools as part of a curriculum reform effort to prepare students for college-level work. A new grant from Boeing will support development of a digital component to assist mathematics and science teachers with lesson planning.

The Meaningful Science curriculum is based on the idea that students learn best when they see a real-life purpose and conduct project-based investigations. A new type of planning tool is required to help teachers implement this innovative approach, according to Consortium director Steven McGee of the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP).

Boeing' grant of $50,000 will go to create a web-based curriculum planning tool to enhance teachers' planning of coursework. Researchers at SESP will create the online tool that will help teachers understand the underlying structure of the curriculum and coordinate the individual lessons, the final project and the standards-based outcomes.

"It's challenging for teachers to adopt new approaches to learning, so we want to provide a tool that will make teachers' jobs a little easier," says McGee. The Consortium provides professional development, coaching, assessment, leadership development and networking - all in an effort to improve student outcomes. SESP is the lead partner in the Meaningful Science Consortium, and its faculty and staff work closely with CPS teachers using the Consortium's curricula in environmental science, Earth science, physics, chemistry and biology.

Meaningful Science, which is one of three options for secondary science offered by the CPS as part of its High School Transformation project, is expanding next year from seven to 12 schools. This year the schools taking advantage of the program are Kenwood Academy, Chicago Academy, BEST High School, Farragut Career Academy, Collins Academy, Austin Polytechnical Academy and School of the Arts at South Shore. During the 2008-09 school year, new schools will be Amundsen High School, Gage Park High School, Hancock College Preparatory High School, Orr High School and Richards Career Acaemy.

Caption: Chicago high school students discuss an evironmental science project at a recent poster fair for Meaningful Science at Northwestern.
By Marilyn Sherman with photo by Andrew Campbell
Last Modified: 8/14/09