The Allegheny Schools Science Education and Technology (ASSET) Inc., a local non-profit consortium of businesses, education and community leaders, was started in 1993 through the
leadership of Bayer Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based company with major businesses in health care, chemicals and imaging technologies. In collaboration with ASSET, sixteen of Allegheny
County's 43 school districts are working towards systematically reforming science education in their elementary schools. Their efforts are to promote an inquiry-centered elementary science
program based on hands-on instructional units and student-centered activity.
Allegheny County is located in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. The average per capita income is $15,115 with 11.5 percent of the population at the poverty level. School districts within the County differ considerably in enrollment due to the socioeconomic and cultural differences among the students. Of the 43 districts, enrollment at the elementary level ranges from 851 in
Sto-Rox to 40,000 in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
The project's goal for teachers is to develop conceptual understanding, scientific investigation
skills and practical reasoning through the use of inquiry/investigative teaching strategies. Each
year, over a five-year period, the project will target a specific area to provide effective inquiry-based instruction. Another component includes leadership training for selected teachers and administrators, implementation training for all teachers, community-based professional
development extension options at regional resources for all teachers, and pre-service training at Duquesne University.
By providing teacher enhancement, it ensures that each child, in grades K-6, is exposed to an exemplary core curriculum of hands-on, inquiry-based science, consistent with nationally
recognized standards for the teaching of science. The curriculum materials used to implement the project's curriculum are Science and Technology for Children (STC), Full Option Science System (FOSS), and EDC-Insights. The participating districts have agreed to implement 28 hands-on modules in grades K-6 at four units per year.
It also increases the teacher's self-confidence in teaching inquiry-based science. Teacher support
is provided through a Materials Support Center, Assessment and Community Involvement. The Materials Support Center provides materials for ASSET classrooms and guides curriculum
planning. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit, a major partner in the development of the Support Center, provides facilities, delivery and pick-up and guidance in labeling systems and selecting computer software. Community involvement comes from work-study students from Duquesne University's Department of Elementary, Secondary and Reading Education, and from parents and
other community volunteers who are recruited to refurbish the modules every 8 weeks. Industry scientists play a key support role as they visit classrooms and work with leadership teams. This
offers the schools cross-district interaction by encouraging community volunteers and professionals to share their expertise and resources. Thus, ASSET breaks down the barriers
between districts and industry to raise the awareness of the public about the importance of science literacy.