Six Components of the USC STAR Program
Component 1: STAR High School Research Program
The USC STAR Program enables Bravo High School students to conduct two years of continuous intensive inquiry-based science research experience and ensures that students endeavoring to learn the rigors of scientific exploration can proceed uninterrupted for a full two years. The partnership between the USC STAR Programs and the USC STAR Summer Research Program provides an uninterrupted flow of scientific learning and research during which students develop the skills and character necessary to conduct significant scientific research. In addition, the USC STAR Summer Research Program provides financial support to economically disadvantaged students who are compelled, due to their economic circumstances, to earn an income during the summer months. 83% of all students at Francisco Bravo High School fall within the poverty range according to federal standards. As the majority of STAR students are the first in their families to attend college the STAR Program also assists its students with the college/university application and financial aid application process. STAR mentors also provide letters of recommendation.
Over 100 articles and abstracts on research conducted by STAR students have been published in peer reviewed scientific journals such as the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Neurobiology. 100% of all USC STAR students go on to attend 4 year colleges and universities, the majority to top tier universities such as the University of Southern California, Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Stanford, Johns Hopkins University, Dartmouth and the Universities of California. 81% of those students who have graduated from university have gone onto to pursue graduate and professional school studies, 92% in health and science related fields. Further, the STAR Program’;s record of success stands in stark contrast to the National Assessment of Educational Progress committee’s finding that California’s primary and secondary students ranked last in science literacy among 40 states tested. Latinos and Blacks scored particularly poorly, especially in California, again ranking last.
Component 2: STAR I Biomedical Research Course
The STAR I Biomedical Research course consists of a cognitive emphasis in conjunction with developing laboratory research skills used presently in conducting scientific research at USC. As part of this course, USC faculty educate both the teacher and students to use computing and communications technology for effective teaching and learning, and to use these capabilities to create a more interesting, dynamic and interactive learning experience. Teachers learn practical knowledge enabling them to use advanced technologies to improve student learning in science while both teacher and student are working in an advanced immersive learning environment.
Component 3: USC - Francisco Bravo Science Fair
The USC STAR Program has also given over 15,000 Francisco Bravo High School students the opportunity to do a science research project, mentored by USC Life Sciences graduate students. The students then present their science projects at the STAR sponsored USC Bravo Science Fair. Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School has no admission requirements. 60% of its students come from the surrounding community and 40 % are admitted by lottery and come from the greater Los Angeles area. Science fair projects provide students an opportunity to inquire about the relationship between variables, be inspired by a scientific problem, to design a strategy to investigate a scientific issue and to put their own experimental design into action. USC graduate students mentor over 1,000 Bravo High School students in the preparation of their science fair project and Students experience problem-based science learning through hypothesis testing, experimental design, problem solving and data analysis, under the mentorship of a USC graduate student. In addition, science projects offer students the opportunity to practice and improve written and oral communication skills. During the process of conducting the initial phases of the project students learn strategies for gathering and organizing information using libraries and the Internet. In addition, students often seek input of health and science professionals to provide information, materials and equipment for their project. Together, these experiences provide them with a set of information gathering skills applicable to a wide range of problems and topics.
Because Bravo's student population is approximately 60% female and 50% Hispanic, approximately 600 projects will be conducted by female students and close to 500 of the science fair projects will be conducted by Hispanic students.
Component 4: Mentorship Training for Graduate Students and STAR Students
Currently, there is very little opportunity for the upcoming generation of scientists to develop skills in mentoring, to develop a familiarity with the practicalities of establishing working relationships with the educational system in the community and to develop skills in communicating science to an audience that is broad in both age and science literacy. This program is designed to mentor and educate the next generation of scientists in the development of these skills. These graduate students and USC STAR high school students should then assume leadership of science education efforts as part of their careers as successful scientists.
Component 5: Murchison Elementary School: Integrative Science and Mentoring
The USC STAR Program’s "Science and Mentoring — an Integrative Approach at Murchison Elementary School" integrates science and science education skills into the entire elementary school course curriculum and mentoring skills into the curriculum of university undergraduate and graduate students, high school and elementary school students. This innovative program brings together elementary school teachers, university professors, graduate and undergraduate students and high school students to create an educational partnership that combines the resources of educational institutions and yields an enriched learning environment and experience for all participants.
Murchison Elementary School science education modules each incorporate multiple problem based learning exercises and experiments demonstrating scientific principles and the discipline of scientific discovery. Each module is based on the material personally presented by a USC scientist at Murchison Elementary School. After the USC scientist"s on site presentation, students will then conduct their own problem based experiments while being mentored in this endeavor by USC undergraduate and graduate students and high school STAR students. Following the students" problem–based learning exercises and experiments students then, via web based interactive conferencing technologies, follow the scientist in his/her laboratory as they and their research team conduct an experiment directly related to the material covered in the scientist’s personal visit. In addition to the scientist that students have personally met, the research team consists of those graduate, undergraduate and high school STAR students who have mentored Murchison students during the course of their experiments. Murchison students are able to interact, in real time, in the research laboratory with the scientists and mentors they have personally interacted with in their classroom. The integrated science education team and curriculum reinforces the continuum of scientific exploration and strengthens the role modeling impact of scientists and graduate, undergraduate and high school student mentors.
Component 6: Elementary and Middle School Teacher Education
An integral component of the USC STAR science education outreach program is an ongoing and concurrent elementary teacher science education program and an intensive summer science and engineering education and research program for El Sereno Middle School and Murchison Elementary School teachers. USC Rossier School of Education specialists in elementary and science education join with community education and assessment experts to formulate specific elementary and middle school teacher education instruction plans. Included in the teacher education curriculum is a comprehensive review of the most current and effective elementary science education pedagogical skills. These plans also address the unique skills necessary for successful science education instruction of a principally minority and economically disadvantaged student population. Teachers also learn effective science and engineering pedagogical skills by hands on learning through science and engineering module implementation, guided by scientists and professional science educators.
In addition, Murchison Elementary and El Sereno Middle School teachers tour the laboratories of the USC scientists who present science modules to their students and learn the scientific research background of those modules. Teachers are also taught effective use and integration of computers into their pedagogy and the technological knowledge necessary to implement computers and web based real time interactive conferencing technologies into their classroom and curriculum