The San Gabriel Valley Science Education Partnership Award Collaborative (SGV SEPAC) is a partnership between City of Hope (COH) a Comprehensive Cancer Center and biomedical research institute and Duarte Unified School District (DUSD) an 80% minority school district in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. Other partners include Pasadena City College and a stand-alone research and education non-profit called Oak Crest Institute of Science (OCIS).
The primary activity of the SGV SEPAC is the summer research program in which high school students will receive instruction about and conduct true inquiry research projects in the setting of a dedicated Community Teaching Laboratory housed on the COH campus. The goal is to offer a less intimidating more nurturing and enriching research experience than traditional summer programs that take place in regular research labs. Select students from the summer program will go on to conduct a school-year research project in COH and OCIS labs now with the background knowledge skills and confidence to be productive contributors to these labs’ research programs.
We are also planning a series of teacher-focused professional development programs focused on increasing content knowledge and research skills on the same topics that students are learning about in their summer research programs. Teachers will receive curriculum materials and protocols to take back to their classrooms. Teachers will also be involved in teaching the didactic portion of the summer research program and work side-by-side with students in the laboratory portion of the program. These experiences will help teachers reinforce the concepts learned by their students in the summer research program and also disseminate that information during the school year to a wider base of students who could not participate in the summer program.
An additional component of the proposed activities will be directed at K–8 students. These will include visits to 2nd grade classrooms by COH scientists and field trip visits to the COH campus by groups of 5th grade and 8th grade students. Students will take a campus tour visit COH labs engage in grade-appropriate experimental activities in the Community Teaching Lab and talk with scientists to learn about careers in research. The goal is to whet the students’ appetite for research and pique their interest in applying for the summer research program during their high school years.
Taken together these programs are intended to be positive research experiences that are more likely than traditional laboratory activities to have a lasting engaging effect on our target group of high school students thus increasing their chances for pursuing careers in biomedical research. Rigorous evaluation using logic model assessment planning tools will ensure timely feedback on our successes and failures and allow for rapid program improvement and dissemination of best practices.