Pilot Project Aims to Advance Maine’s High School Science Curriculum

November 29, 2018
Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) was recently awarded $10,000 by the Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation Home Community of the Maine Community Foundation (MCF) to develop a curriculum to expand its current high school program throughout Maine. The funding is being used to create a hands-on science and research curriculum pilot program for classrooms.

MMCRI currently offers a high school education program to a small number of Maine high schools in the greater Portland region. Students and teachers travel to MMCRI in Scarborough once a month for a seven-session program to learn about biomedical research through experiential lessons. The expanded program created with this grant funding will allow schools to benefit from the MMCRI curriculum for less money and with less traveling.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to expand our current high school program to rural communities and districts that might not have the resources to travel to our laboratories,” said Lucy Liaw, PhD, MMCRI Senior Scientist and Director of Education and Training. “At the same time, it gives us the chance to evaluate the curriculum and learn the best way to deliver such a program.”

MMCRI researchers and staff are working collaboratively with several educators, using lessons from the current high school program to create portable kits for classrooms that will include a detailed on-line science curriculum and videos. Schools will be divided into three groups and each will experience the curriculum differently.

One group will simply be given the materials for a teacher to deliver. A second will interact with an MMCRI researcher over Skype to get assistance delivering and facilitating the lessons. The third group will have an MMCRI researcher travel to the school to assist in delivering the lessons. Teachers receiving the video or interacting with the researcher on Skype also will receive on-site training at MMCRI. The curriculum will adhere to state educational guidelines, enhancing teacher resources for extended project-based STEM activities.

Schools that will be participating in the pilot program include: Casco Bay High School in Portland, Scarborough High School, Biddeford Regional Technical Center, York High School, Edward Little High School in Auburn and Camden Hills Regional High School. All of the pilot project high schools will be surveyed and participate in a forum to evaluate the project’s success.

“Developing and giving access to this curriculum is exciting for us, as are the possibilities that lie ahead for this program,” said Dr. Liaw. “Careers in science and technology are high growth areas in Maine, and programs like these expose and engage students early.”