NEWTON, MA | August 1, 2001
Middle school students in ScienceQuest, an afterschool science program offered in six low-income Boston neighborhoods, celebrated their research projects and unveiled Web sites they created about them at a party hosted by Millennium Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge July 26.
Through ScienceQuest, developed by EDC, young people were invited to ask their own scientific questions and, with the help of coaches, EDC scientists, and museum experts, find their own answers. Some teams went “micro” and looked at bacteria in the tap water, and others went “astro” and looked for aliens in outer space. At the culmination of their research, the teams developed websites to publish their findings. The HighPoint Village team in Roslindale went a step further and created a bi-lingual English and Spanish Web site about lions, “The Mane Page.” All of the students’ websites are accessible through ThinkQuest.org, an award-winning website dedicated to foster design skills among young people.
ScienceQuest is currently based in community technology centers in low-income Boston neighborhoods, with plans to expand to some 25 sites nationwide next year. Project Director Jennifer Dorsen explains that “We were excited to pilot this program with such wonderful community resources and with such enthusiastic young people. At both HighPoint and Roxbury MultiService Center, they used older kids as assistants, modeling for the middle-school students what it means to be excited about learning and have a good time. It is an idea that works.”
The community technology centers, established to help bridge the “digital divide,” provided the student investigators with access to the Internet and web development tools, while scientists from around the city were available to help teams and their coaches pursue their questions. Field trips around Boston both whetted student interest—a trip to the Franklin Park Zoo moved one group to concentrate on lions—and facilitated their research—another group bacteria levels in water samples from the Charles River, the Swan Pond, and their center’s tap water.
What makes ScienceQuest unique, stresses Dorsen, is that the young people formed and investigated their own questions. Adds Dr. Judith Zorfass of EDC, “ScienceQuest brings together the best of what we know works with young adolescents to engage-and sustain-their interest in science…These young people have a passion for their questions and we are happy to help them find the answers!”