Clymer To Offer College Credit Course Through JCC Grant

CLYMER – Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, students at Clymer Central School will have the opportunity to take a new college-credit course without having to leave the building.

This is because Clymer was selected as one of 21 districts to participate in Jamestown Community College’s High School Undergraduate Research Initiative/Science Undergraduate Research Initiative program, which is being funded by a near $900,000 grant awarded by the National Science Foundation.

The HURI SURI program is available to high schools in the form of a $16,000 grant, which is used for the funding of equipment, supplies and training necessary to provide the new course, entitled “Biology: A Molecular Approach.” The funding is spread out over a three-year period, providing $10,000 worth of equipment in the first year, and $2,000 over the next three consecutive years for supplies.

David VanEarden, high school science teacher at Clymer, has undertaken the rigorous process of becoming certified to teach the course.

“In addition to giving you money, (HURI SURI is) actually training qualified people to teach the research-based course in biology,” he said. “It’s a really cool opportunity. These kids are going to have a leg up when they enter college, because they’ll be able to walk into a molecular biology lab and say, ‘I did that in high school.'”

The HURI SURI program, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides training and research experiences to high school teachers-giving them the needed skills required to teach the college-credit course. The course is intended to improve student engagement through three methods: case-based methods, investigative learning and undergraduate research.

The class will teach basic skills that are usable in the real world of molecular research for high school graduates entering college. It will use chemistry and physics principles to explore gene expression and cell biology, and apply it to mosquito evolution. It will also focus on the skills needed to do genetic research, and bring the findings to a logical conclusion.

According to VanEarden, the application process was extensive, and he still has more work to do over the summer in order to be certified to teach the course.

“I had to submit my transcripts, education background and courses I was currently teaching. Then I had an interview, sent in my application and got approved,” said VanEarden, who will need to undergo 90 hours of training through a “boot camp” running from July 8 to Aug. 7.

VanEarden said he was contacted about the grant by Jackie Crisman, HURI SURI program director and associate professor and coordinator of JCC’s biotechnology program, who has been his liaison with JCC.

According to Crisman, HURI SURI drives students to integrate concepts from biology, chemistry and physics by having them participate in an authentic research project.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is provide high schools with equipment, technology and successful pedagogies to teach science; specifically biology,” said Crisman. “The program also provides JCC students with the opportunity to do summer research internships at four-year schools. JCC Biotech uses undergraduate research as a central pedagogy throughout the program. Everybody in JCC Biotech typically transfers to four-year schools, almost all of them after two years. It seems to be working really well. All of my students are actively talking about going to graduate school. So, this is to broaden their horizons in terms of understanding what kinds of things they can do for careers.”

Crisman said that the HURI SURI program is funded for 23 school districts throughout nine Southern Tier counties. For the term of the three-year NSF grant, 28 districts applied and 21 were approved.