Grant announced to help improve local science education

Buffalo, NY – The National Science Foundation is granting $9.8 million to a Buffalo-based coalition first launched in 2005 to change how science is taught in Buffalo Public Schools.

Members of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership, or ISEP, gathered at the Buffalo Museum of Science Tuesday morning to announce the grant that, they say, will allow them over the next five years to expand ISEP into a dozen Buffalo Public Schools, giving up to 48 teachers the opportunity to participate in research and programs from which they can bring new ideas into their classrooms.

Dr. Joseph Gardella, ISEP project leader and John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo, says one of the challenges facing teachers is keeping science interesting for students, who may be wowed with the experiments in middle school but lose interest as they advance into high school.

"The 'wow' stuff is too often looked at as 'I've done my job, I've wowed them for a day or two or a week.' We want the wow every day, every week, all the time," said Gardella. "That's the big lift because that's the real commitment. That's the human resource commitment that says we're going to be there every day, every week, all year round, and that's what resources like this give us the chance to do."

ISEP was first launched at three pilot schools. One of them was the Native American Magnet School, where students in ISEP classrooms have shown themselves to be 30-percent more likely to achieve proficiency on the state's eighth grade science exam.

ISEP will start at seven schools and, over the next five years, expand to twelve within Buffalo.

"I see a community that's coming together to say that this could be the new Buffalo," said acting Buffalo School Superintendent Amber Dixon. "New opportunities, new education, strengthening the core of who we are, strengthening our partnerships, and maybe turning our direction around. It's a fabulous collaboration. It's a wonderful achievement."

In addition to Buffalo Public Schools and University at Buffalo, partners include Buffalo State College and Buffalo Museum of Science. The federal grant will also allow U.B. graduate students to study ISEP itself to determine what elements of the program are working, and why.