Great Ideas in Science is a collaboration between Montclair State University, the East Orange School District, and the Jersey City Public Schools. The 5-year project targets K-8 teachers in both districts, with 570 teachers to be enhanced through summer and Saturday institutes and another 500 through school-year inservice and school visits. The Jersey City school system has been taken over by the New Jersey Department of Education, and both districts have been identified as "critical needs" districts requiring special help. East Orange and Jersey City have 98 and 89 percent minority enrollments respectively. The East Orange school population is almost exclusively black (both African-American and other black ethnic groups), while Jersey City is a center of immigrant settlement with more than 70 ethnic groups represented, the largest contingencies being Hispanic. Up to 40 percent of the teachers are minorities.
The project components include a 4-week July Institute for basic introductions to inquiry approaches to teaching and in-depth content development in selected topics, supported by classroom visits, district inservice, 7-day Alumni Institutes, teacher-mentor development, teacher-led Science Study Groups, and experimental practice teaching in the Living Laboratory.
Workshops and institutes are taught in ways that model the methodologies that teachers are expected to use in their
classrooms. The project components are designed to (1) enhance teacher knowledge of science subject matter, (2) increase understanding of inquiry-based, process-oriented techniques, (3)develop commitments to life-long learning and professional renewal,and (4) increase confidence in teaching science. A cohort of teacher mentors who have enhanced presentation skills has been developed to institutionalize the project so that high-quality teacher-led
inservice may continue beyond the grant period.