This project promotes science and mathematics reform for K-5 level teachers in the Atlanta Public Schools by providing teachers with college undergraduate science majors as "science partners". The science partners register for a two-credit course or a service learning program, receive training in inquiry-science instruction, and spend 5-6 hours every week in the classroom team-teaching science lessons with the assigned teacher. The project is guided by the conviction that all children can learn science and that they gain new scientific knowledge most readily by being actively engaged with real materials and equipment. Children should be encouraged to ask questions and do meaningful experiments as well as read books and learn scientific vocabulary. The main objectives of the project are to provide materials and help K-5 teachers use inquiry-based instructional techniques that promote problem-solving skills and show that science can be relevant to children's daily activities. Another important aspect of this project is the staff's belief that science instruction must be integrated with mathematics, language arts and other subjects. The Atlanta Public Schools, which includes 1,600 K-5 teachers in 72 urban schools, serves a population over 30,000 children. Ninety one percent of the student body are African American and 76 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Science partners and faculty science mentors are recruited from Emory and seven collaborating institutions: Georgia State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia Institute of Technology, Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College. In addition to providing science partners and mentors, the project has five other major components. 1) preparation and distribution of a modular science kit-based curriculum; 2) a multi-level staff development effort; 3) a strong focus on integrating performance-based assessment with pedagogy as well as formative and summative assessments designed to allow ongoing evaluation of all aspects of the program; 4) induction and training of ESEP participants into an electronic network, Learnlink, designed to expedite communication amongst teachers, student science partners and faculty mentors; and 5) a focus on the cultural and gender-equity issues that underlie the changes required to achieve science education reform.
Project goals include: 1) teachers becoming self-motivated learners, actively seeking further training in science and guided-discovery instruction; 2) teachers becoming more willing and able to use inquiry science hands-on materials and minimizing their use of rote memorization of facts and vocabulary in science teaching; 3) teachers being sensitized to gender-equity issues in science instruction; and 4) generating excitement, enthusiasm and curiosity among the children in the ESEP schools about learning science and mathematics.