SEF's Sustained Commitment to Science
Long term SEF supporters may remember a grant in 2010 to help the high school start a Science Research program. In January of 2011, a group of enterprising high school students, along with Ms. Cynthia Vitale and Dr. Benjamin Greene, signed on to a 7am daily class to understand, explore and initiate original science research.
Over the past three years, SEF has funded 40 Science grants in the District for a total of over $185,000. Elementary level grants have included Family Science programs, Robotics, and Science Problem-Based Learning Centers. Grants for data collection technology and course redesign to better integrate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education into the curriculum have been approved for the middle school. And at the high school, SEF grants have been used to purchase sophisticated lab equipment for chemistry, physics and biology classes. SEF funds have also enabled the SHS science department to acquire oscilloscopes, Arduino kits for programming experience, and to design, prepare and deliver an online Zoology course.
The Science Research program is now 19 students strong, running as a scheduled class two periods a day under the continued direction of Ms. Vitale and Dr. Greene. A recent SEF grant enabled the District to engage Dr. Patricia Fontan as a part time resource to develop relationships with local labs that can sponsor SHS student research.
This past summer, three SHS juniors had intensive internship experiences as an outgrowth of their particpation in the class. Mitchell Booth and Alex Kelser took part in the Liberty Science Center Partners in Science program. Mitchell assisted a Rutgers professor in identifying chemical species in the vapor emitted from crumb rubber associated with artificial turf. Alex worked with a professor at Princeton to characterize the chemical composition of non-homogeneous materials. And Zach Rissman worked with a Montclair State professor to understand the manipulation of a protein with tumor suppression activity in skin cancer.
"SEF has been an essential force and a true partner in advancing the District's curriculum," according to Mr. Tom O'Dowd, Science Supervisor at SHS. "We could never have moved into hands-on labs and expanded electives this quickly without their support." As SEF members, we look forward to hearing more about where these new science opportunities take our talented young students in the coming years.