innovateNJ Initiatives are innovative programs and projects that are happening within New Jersey schools and districts with the support of the New Jersey Department of Education.
Bergen County Academies Hack-a-Thon
Randolph SOLE Program
Hybrid Pilot Program
Across America, in any college, in any town, students are busy learning foundational and consequential subjects. Unlike the traditional lecture in days of yore, today's college students are likely to attend classes that are a blend of face-to-face and online meetings. These "blended" or "hybrid" courses allow for learning that is student-led and directed, which can result in deeper understanding. At BCIT in Westampton, high school students have been given the chance to learn a new subject and practice the soft skills so necessary for success in college.
West teachers are piloting three electives this fall, two sections of Human Behavior and one section of Forensic Science. Though the original plan was for two classes, the program was so popular that a third class was added. All three classes are filled to capacity, yet students are still applying for admission. Participating students are issued a Chromebook for their classes, which meet after school once per week for a two hour session and once per week online for an hour. Classes are inquiry-based and student-led. Last week, while teachers were meeting with parents for back-to-school night, students were meeting online to discuss the background, theories, and beliefs of famous psychologists.
Skye Fowler, a junior at BCIT, enrolled in Human Behavior as her interest lies in neuropsychology. She believes that if you can "enhance the time you spend somewhere, you should do that." Skye's goal is to get as much out of her high school years as she can. Though the class has seen some minor bumps, mostly due to technical issues, she is enjoying the creativity of the lessons and is excited to delve deeper into what drives human behavior.
Student Kayla Pearson didn't join until September. She was intrigued because one of her peers was enjoying the experience; unlike Skye, Kayla isn't sure what she wants to pursue in the future. She plans to explore as many topics as possible until she finds her place. The sensitive topics introduced in this course are captivating for Kayla, and she eagerly anticipates the weightier subjects to come.
The hybrid classes are a win for students and a win for the school community. The ability to extend the school day and pique student interest is invaluable, and staff members are busy planning ways to expand the program in the future.
Liberty Science Center STEM Afterschool Program
In collaboration with Jersey City Public Schools, Liberty Science Center developed a transformative afterschool STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program. Embarking on its first year of operation, the STEM afterschool program serves as a daily workshop designed for middle school students.
The afterschool program curriculum highlights content areas such as reverse engineering, coding and programming, energy and sustainability, data visualization and other connections to STEM careers in today's workforce.
These daily STEM workshops are currently presented to students at Franklin L. Williams School (MS 7) and Joseph H. Brensinger School (PS 17). Last month, students were introduced to a computer science project that allowed them to engage with robots as a way to make connections to algorithms. Currently, the students are learning Scratch, a basic programming language developed by Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT).
As the afterschool program progresses, the Liberty Science Center will add some excitement into the mix by allowing students to program custom commands that will allow robots to perform different tasks. With the technology sector expanding rapidly, we hope this experience sparks interest and excitement in computer science.
At a glance - Authentic Research
Students are getting into the mindset for conquering the Students Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) Mission 9. SSEP was launched in 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks. SSEP is designed to follow the STEM education initiative as the students design and propose real microgravity experiments to be completed aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Students are experimenting with salt wedges to build a foundation on how gravity affects everything on Earth. Students communicated and collaborated as a group to brainstorm and share brilliant ideas of what they could possibly test in microgravity from this simple experiment. Their ideas ranged from how density would react in microgravity to how different organisms evolve in microgravity. As a whole we dug deep into the simple salt wedge experiment and made it more complex talking about estuaries and then collaborating on what organisms develop and thrive in brackish water and how ecosystems are affected. Students then ended the lab analyzing the FEM Tube and brainstormed how they would set up this experiment in the tube to be sent to the ISS.