Urbana Middle School Program Receives National Recognition

After its first year at Urbana Middle School, the IMSA FUSION program has been recognized as one of the nation’s top K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs by both Bayer Corporation and by Change the Equation (CTEq). “Typically, it takes time for new partner schools to adapt to our inquiry-based teaching approaches and hands-on, content-deep lab work,” says Jami Breslin, ISMA FUSION Project Director. “[T]eachers, Jason Pound and Laura Hlinka, not only jumped right in to IMSA FUSION readily and seamlessly, they quickly stood out as exemplary teachers with their incredible STEMblog and creative curricular extensions.” UMS science teacher and STEM Coach, Tina Lehr, also had a big role in making the first year a success.

Urbana Middle School began partnering with the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Fall of the 2011-12 school year to bring the after-school enrichment program to students who are talented, interested and motivated in mathematics and science. IMSA FUSION places a special emphasis on students who are historically underrepresented in those areas. Thirty students in grades 6-8 were selected for the program based on teacher recommendation, academic performance, ISAT performance, and a student essay stating interest in the program. The program met Fridays after school and participated in occasional Saturday activities and field trips.

During these sessions, teachers fueled group discussions on math problems, engineering issues and science topics, while incorporating computers, lab equipment, and iPad applications. Students completed many different projects and experiments on topics such as sensory methods, networking and plant and animal behaviors. They showcased their projects to parents and students at two STEM and IMSA Parent Nights in fall and spring.

In addition to running the after-school program, Pound and Hlinka also attended IMSA professional development sessions and presented their own workshop session, Using Technology to Enhance Lessons and Feedback, at the IMSA FUSION Pedagogy, Orientation and Planning events in June 2012. “According to evaluations and FUSION staff feedback, their workshop was one of the best features of our event,” says Breslin. “Jason and Laura provided teachers with resources, ideas and strategies for incorporating innovative technologies into FUSION activities.”

Due to the success of the first year and the increasing interest from students, the middle school plans to add an additional section to the existing IMSA FUSION for the 2012-13 school year. Applicants will still have to go through the same process to be accepted into the program, but the middle school hopes to make IMSA FUSION available to even more students.

For more information, visit the middle school website at www.usd116.org/ums or read the IMSA FUSION blog at umshw.usd116.org/users/imsafusion.

Information provided by the Urbana School District.