Editor’s Note: The following post is the first part of a series on “The Great Diseases Project: A Partnership Between Tufts Medical School and the Boston Public Schools,” in which AM Rounds asked a few of the projects’ participants to share their thoughts and impressions on the collaboration.
Karina Meiri, PhD, (Great Diseases Project, P.I.):
I came to this collaboration after a very successful outreach experience – over 8 years we paired more than 350 high school students with mentors in local universities to do science projects. We produced the state fair winner each year as well as 3 Intel winners, including the overall Intel winner in 2009! That experience made 2 things clear – first, that we were only reaching kids who were already hooked on science, and more importantly, we weren’t involving their teachers, so there was zero impact on the classroom. So Kathleen and I decided to try a formal intervention. It was clear to both of us that to really impact the curriculum, we needed a real partnership – not the usual model of university researchers dictating terms. The trust we had built up stood us in good stead, but when we approached the Boston Public Schools for formal approval they had more criteria – we proposed making a 2nd level Biology curriculum focused on diseases, but they needed to make sure it was accessible to all the schools in the district. They suggested constructing a collaborative learning community with teachers from Boston Latin (the elite college prep school) and the Vocational high school. Together they covered a lot of pedagogical bases. Remarkably the partnership endures into our 5th year – we’ve lost a couple to retirement and grad. school but the core group remains.