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Penn GSE's Yasmin Kafai is bringing the new field of synthetic biology into Philadelphia high schools.
Kafai is collaborating with PennDesign's Orkan Telhan to develop affordable, safe, and user-friendly synthetic biology wetlab kits for high school students. Students use the kits to build genetic circuits, which they insert into microorganisms to manipulate the color, smell, and shape of the organisms.
Before Philadelphia's William M. Meredith School partnered with Penn GSE and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, most math classes were traditional lectures. But as part of the Ongoing Assessment Project, teachers at the school began reworking their lessons.
Students notice the difference, according to a story in The Philadelphia Tribune.
“We will ask a kid a very open-ended question and the key is to show their thinking," math lead teacher Jessica Tilli told The Philadelphia Tribune.
Rebecca Nyquist Baelen, a Penn GSE education policy doctoral student, was part of a team tasked with improving academic performance at three Baltimore middle schools. Teachers told Nyquist Baelen and her colleagues one of their biggest challenges was getting students to calm down and focus.
Educators enter the profession because of a deep commitment to learning, children, and their communities. But once they arrive in schools, they often find that day-to-day work can be grueling and stressful. The constant message that they’re not doing enough, and not doing it well despite their valiant and often brilliant efforts causes many educators to become frustrated—even unhappy and cynical. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by the high rates of teacher turnover, especially in high-needs schools.
Earlier this year, a study by the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium found that English learners from Spanish-speaking homes in Philadelphia public schools were less likely to be English proficient after third grade than their peers from homes where other languages, such as Chinese or Arabic, were spoken.
Not long ago, a student of the Christina Seix Academy (CSA) in Trenton, NJ, had a mother with no job and an unstable housing situation. Today, that student is thriving. With the guidance of the independent school, the mother has completed a nursing program and obtained a job.
Muslim families in America are under tremendous pressure and fearful after a year of dramatic increases in hateful anti-Muslim incidents.
Penn GSE Associate Professor Susan Yoon wants science to empower students—both to develop the skills their futures will require and to live as engaged citizens.
“Science content and processes are not just academic things,” she says. “I want students to be able to take what they learn and apply it in the world to do good and effect change.”
But what happens when the context of problems isn’t relatable? That’s what Penn GSE’s Janine Remillard and Caroline Brayer Ebby asked when they saw kids in Philadelphia struggling to make sense of the problems in a curriculum designed to build mathematics from real life contexts. Instead of asking students to solve a problem built around renting motor bikes on a luxury vacation, why not tap into their daily experiences living in America’s poorest big city? These relatable scenarios give them tools to develop critical thinking about their own world.