The International Community High School in Bronx, New York provides a glimpse of what makes America so strong—diversity. The school’s student body consists of newly arrived immigrants from countries around the world who are just beginning to learn English.
“Students speak all different kinds of languages,” said Jesusa Merioles, who has been a science teacher at the school for almost 10 years.
One thing that is universal among the students: an excitement for science and learning. Thanks to the Society for Science & the Public’s STEM Research Grant Program, Jesusa’s students are able to dive more deeply into scientific research.
Jesusa leads a group of students in an after-school research program. The students present their research every year at a STEM fair held at the school. Some students have competed at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair.
“It was only through this $2,500 grant that our school -- for the first time -- was able to acquire digital microscopes, digital colony counters, and a UV chamber. The procurement of this equipment has definitely enhanced and improved our science lab equipment inventory,” Jesusa said.
The equipment is just what Jesusa’s students needed to conduct more rigorous experiments and submit their research projects in the New York City Science and Engineering Fair. After the students submit their research papers, they will receive a tablet purchased with the STEM Research Grant.
“The tablets that they will receive upon submission of their research paper was huge motivation for them. But even more important than receiving the tablets, my students are aware that the various stages in the research process will also hone their communication skills, critical thinking and reasoning, and digital and innovative skills,” Jesusa said. “These 21st century skills, which they could develop through active participation in this science research competition, will better prepare them for college and empower them to become drivers of their education as they try to achieve their personal goals.”
Across the river in Union City, New Jersey, Union City High School is also working to establish a scientific research program that will enable their students to perform real-world experiments as part of an ongoing laboratory project.
“It is difficult for high school students to be exposed to lab equipment and setups similar to real research laboratories," said Judith Barrios, a science teacher at the school.
Thanks to the Society for Science & the Public STEM Research Grant, students are beginning to conduct research using equipment, such as a thermocycler, which amplifies DNA, and a gel apparatus like those used in research facilities.
“My students were excited when they saw the equipment. They felt like they were employees at a research institution,” Judith said. “Students will become proficient in using this type of sophisticated equipment that generates data similar to that found in peer-reviewed journals.”
Judith’s students are exploring the effects of pollutants on gene expression in plants, and future experiments will extend to microbes. Students will have the opportunity to present their research at upcoming science fairs.
“Students are excited about conducting research over the summer and academic year, and I hope this will spark a new interest in becoming scientists and researchers,” Judith explained. “I have full enrollment for the summer research program, and a waiting list. Students can’t wait to discuss their ideas and submit their proposals for their projects. We have a variety of proposed topics for the projects from microbiology to plant sciences to gene cloning. The possibilities are endless.”