The New York Academy of Sciences’s Scientist in Residence is a profiled program in the Plugging In Report.
Who is served: K–12 teachers and students in underserved schools (with a focus on middle school) in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens
Number of participants: Roughly 335 students
Location: 7 in-school locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens: MS442 Carroll Gardens School for Innovation, PS142 Amalia Castro, Institute for Collaborative Education, High School for Health Professions and Human Service, Teachers College Community School, The Queens School of Inquiry, Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders
Frequency/Duration: 10 sessions (at least every 2 weeks per semester) of 45 to 60 minutes. A scientist might support 2–4 classes at each school.
Curriculum: Research project developed by teacher and scientist and aligned with NGSS curriculum standards. Middle school teachers typically propose life sciences research, while elementary school teachers take a STEAM approach; last year, a third-grade class used clay to represent different layers of skin during a biology research project, for example. Skills taught include communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and digital literacy.
Outcomes: Students can go on to other NYAS programs, such as Junior Academy. NYAS is working on creating a teaching credential for scientists who complete the program. Pre- and post-program surveys measure teachers’ comfort level with implementing STEM projects after the program; whether teachers see any improvement in students’ skill and knowledge. For scientists, NYAS measures interest in becoming a science educator and skills in pedagogy, communication, and collaboration.
Partnerships: DOE, schools listed above
Sources of funding: Mixed; The program was created in partnership with DOE, but moving forward NYAS will be “running the program more independently” and seeking funding from different sectors, according to program manager Rowena Kuo.
What makes the program stand out? This program plays an important role because of the lack of science research opportunities in New York City public schools. The program targets underserved schools identified by DYCD and aims to give students an opportunity to conduct long-term, authentic scientific research, as well as expose teachers to computer science techniques while preparing them to carry out independent research projects. Teachers must propose a research project that identifies an area of science they’re interested in exploring with students in the coming school year. NYAS then seeks out scientists with backgrounds in that particular field, often graduate or undergraduate students interested in teaching.
Additionally, NYAS encourages teachers and scientists-in-residence to develop their projects around improving students’ communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. Digital literacy is another major component, said Kuo, as students gain experience with “how to critically evaluate the resources that they find online.” In doing so, students get the rare opportunity to learn directly from scientists, who share the vetting methods they use when conducting their own research.
What do participants need to succeed? Teachers need help preparing students for the 8th-grade NYS science test. For that reason, NYAS plans to shift the focus of Scientist-in-Residence towards middle schools this coming year. Because of the lack of science instruction at the elementary level, Scientist-in-Residence can help provide the “catching up” that many middle school students need, according to Kuo. And whereas in previous years the DOE recruited teachers while NYAS recruited scientists, NYAS will be doing both for the coming school year in an effort to better align teacher needs with scientists’ expertise.
What does the organization need? There are always more teachers wanting to be part of the program than there are scientists available to lead classes. NYAS needs more scientists to be part of this program, as well as resources to help with aligning curriculum to scientists’ expertise.
More buy-in from schools, including more support for teachers who want to or are participating in Scientist-in-Residence, is another need.