Track and explore: Partnering between college science, teacher education, and a local business to serve middle school students
Fewer than 20% of middle school science students are proficiently meeting state standards in many schools in southeast Michigan. Access to quality hands-on science programming is frequently a challenge for late elementary and middle school science teachers. While policymakers have been able to identify deficiencies in performance, there has been much less success in providing needed resources and guidance to actually address these problems.
Starting in 2011, Adrian College established a community partnership with a major NASCAR venue, the Michigan International Speedway, to provide science educational opportunities to middle school students, teaching experience to college science and education majors, and research experience for science majors. Students and faculty in biology, environmental science, chemistry and teacher education have collaborated to develop and deliver benchmarked science curriculum material for grades 5-8 in a field trip setting. In addition, biology and environmental science faculty have provided research opportunities for undergraduate majors.
After three years of growth, the program is entering its fourth summer. During the first year, about 210 students were served; the subsequent two years served 1297 and 1418 students, respectively during the month of May. The number of college student instructors trained and involved in the program grew from 5 in the first year to 9 in the second year to 11 in the third, with 12 or 13 hired for May 2015. Our founding cohort of students have all found employment as science teachers in their first year on the job market. Assessments from each summer have provided feedback to improve the program. We will discuss our program’s successes, assessment approach, and how we have used those assessments to incrementally improve the program over time. We will also highlight some of the recognition the program has received, including helping the track to achieve NASCAR Track of the Year for two consecutive years and winning a prestigious campus-community partnership award for the state of Michigan. This session is intended to discuss one model to campus-community partnerships, and hopefully inspire discussion of and implementation of these types of programs elsewhere.