Higley, Gilbert, Mesa and Chandler district high school sophomores interested in math, science, technology and engineering are getting the chance to work with Arizona State University professors, local engineers and high school teachers in a three-year project that allows them to earn college credit.
The "Prime the Pipeline Project: Putting Knowledge to Work" is recruiting between 50 and 75 students and 50 math and science high school teachers from the four school districts to participate in the project, said Carole Greenes, an ASU dean and professor of mathematics education.
"We want to increase high school students' interest and achievement in science, mathematics and technology in order to get them better prepared for college majors in these subjects and better prepared for the workplace," said Greenes, the project's leader. "We also want to give math and science teachers an opportunity to update their knowledge on those subjects."
The School of Educational Innovation and Teacher Preparation at ASU Polytechnic in Mesa received a $1.35 million grant from the National Science Foundation to fund the project, Greenes said.
Steve Green, director of curriculum and instruction for the Mesa Unified School District, said he's excited by the concept.
"It looks like it's a wonderful opportunity to add more relevance into the study of mathematics," Green said. "It's also a wonderful opportunity for our teachers to be involved, and there's certainly some professional development there."
Students will begin working on the project in January and continue through their junior and senior years, including the summers.
"The core of the strategy is the engagement of students in a scientific village, which is a community whose members work on big, long-term projects that are of high interest and require applications of concepts and skills," Greenes said.
Each village will have 10 high school students and teachers, two ASU undergraduate students as mentors, and two scientists either from ASU or from local industries. The groups will work together on projects that bring math, science and technology together.
Project examples will be problems facing society, such as looking at the food supply chain, including food production and distribution, exploring a health care plan with biomedical science and health care applications, and considering alternative energy for the state.
Teachers will get updated on new technology, attend programs to show them new math and science concepts, and learn how to integrate the subjects into their teaching. They'll also learn how to counsel their students on how to be ready for college, learn new strategies for assessing student understanding and depths of understanding, and get a handle on what the kids know and how well they know it, Greenes said.
Students will not only get a more thorough knowledge of math, science, technology and business, but also opportunities to practice what they are learning and get them prepared for college, Greenes said.
"Right now about 33 percent of college students are in remedial courses in math," Greenes said. "That kills us when they get to college. And their science skills aren't much better. We want to really tackle that."
Gilbert Superintendent Dave Allison said he thinks it's great the district is involved. He said students from Highland High School will be involved in the project.
"I like it because it's a good partnership between our district and ASU," Allison said. "It gets the kids over to ASU in terms of their goal-setting."
Students and teachers interested in joining the project should ask their high school principals for an application. Recruiting will be done through the beginning of December.