Space and Science Center Delivers Weekly Science Ed to Middle Schoolers

An Oakland-based STEM center has been teaming up with a local middle school to provide on-site science education for 102 students. California's Chabot Space & Science Center works with students from Hillcrest Middle School one day a week in a program called "Chabot Satellite Academy."

Every Tuesday, the entire middle school student body heads to Chabot, where the sixth, seventh and eighth graders work with their own teachers and Chabot staff to learn about science topics using the center's own exhibits and expertise. The 20 visits they'll have made by the end of the year integrate Next Generation Science Standards, with an emphasis on the science and engineering practices

"We think this is the only program of its kind in the country, where a middle school is actually embedded in a science museum for 20 percent of its academic week," said Chabot Executive Director, Adam Tobin, in a statement. "This gives the students unprecedented access to science, scientists and educators at a level not often available in public schools. It empowers our staff to more deeply explore how we can better serve the community as an educational resource."

Most recently, the young learners conducted "citizen scientist" projects focused on one of four community concerns: waste and litter, climate change, human health and income social equality. In early May, students made presentations on their findings at the center.

"The test is not just can students can recite back what they have learned, but can they interpret and teach what they have learned to other students?" said Tobin. "It's very exciting and very innovative and we can't wait to see what these young scientists come up with."

He noted that the pilot program was only the beginning of the "kind of in-depth partnership and programming that Chabot Space and Science Center can have with schools in the District."

"I see this as a transformative learning design where students participate in relevant and rigorous science education in a quality learning landscape. The fall and spring sessions are designed to foster collaboration, critical literacy, and problem solving," added Maria McCormick, principal of the school, which is part of Oakland Unified School District. "These...students will have the opportunity to learn about and develop solutions for complex problems that our local and global community face. Equally important is that their feedback, learning, and observations will inform and guide our teachers' instructional decisions."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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