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    CPS Partnerships (Part One) 

    Cambridge is one of the most concentrated hubs of education, technology and innovation in the country, if not the world. This affords our students unique access to extended opportunities in their own backyards.  We have spoken over the past few years about how 21st century learning occurs in many spaces beyond the traditional 900 sq. ft. classroom, and in Cambridge Public Schools we are putting those words into action. None of this would be possible, however, without our outstanding university and business partners who have helped Cambridge flourish as one of the best places to teach and learn.

    By opening their doors to us, the Cambridge business and university communities have offered new worlds of possibilities for our students. They are providing sponsorship dollars but also volunteering their time and expertise, mentoring our students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as the arts and humanities.  Cambridge is home to arguably the greatest university community in the world, and these institutions—especially Harvard, MIT and Lesley—have stepped up to join with CPS and expand their mission to help educate the city’s youngest residents.  Their community spirit, and their willingness to match their words with action, exemplifies a big part of what makes them so remarkable and what makes our K-12 students so fortunate.

    This article discusses the amazing partnerships we have built with our university counterparts.  Space limits my ability to go into great detail about every single opportunity offered to our CPS students, but I hope to provide a sense of how rich these partnerships are.  Next week in this spaceI will present Part 2 of this article, which will outline the incredible opportunities Cambridge’s business community offers CPS students, bringing “real-world” experiences to them as a way to complement and deepen what our students learn in school.  Taken together, the two parts of this op-ed piece demonstrate that public schools cannot do it alone.  We rely on our generous partners, and they deliver in the most extraordinary ways. 

    CPS is partnering with MIT and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation to develop a graduate-level program for teachers in secondary school math and science (STEM) education as a means of building a pipeline to the profession in this area of critical need.  For 20 years, MIT’s KeyPals program has been pairing Cambridge fifth graders with volunteers from MIT, Draper Labs, and IBM to help foster the students’ writing and computer skills.  The MIT Edgerton Center and the MIT Museum provide CPS students with hands-on learning experiences with engineering concepts.  MIT’s Sea Perch program offers our students direct engagement in oceanographic and engineering studies.  Some of our Technology Department staff have been working with the MIT Lifelong Kindergarten group around the Family Creative Learning project, which involves providing workshops to families to learn and play together with Scratch and Makey Makeys.  Next April will mark the 10th anniversary of the Cambridge Science Festival--founded by MIT and co-sponsored by Harvard, the City of Cambridge, and a number of local industries--which brings thousands of residents and visitors to the city to celebrate their “curiosity” through a week of free workshops and events open to the public. 

    Every 8th grade student in CPS participates in the Student Science and Engineering Showcase at Harvard University where they share their learning and engage in rich dialogue with Harvard students as well as their peers from across the district.  Harvard Graduate School of Education’s EcoMUVE project helps our students develop deeper understanding of ecosystems and causal patterns with a curriculum that users Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs).  Working in collaborative teams within a virtual world, students use this immersive interface to learn science by exploring and solving problems in realistic environments. The Peabody Museum opens their doors every winter to all 6th grade students social studies for a field trip that supports the early humans unit of history.  The Harvard Museum of Natural History is currently developing a new 4th grade field trip for all CPS students that will connect to the new Earth's Changing Surface unit.  Harvard also plays a key role in CPS’ college awareness program as every 7th grader visits the campus for a day of workshops to learn about college life.

    Lesley University and the Kennedy-Longfellow Elementary School have partnered to transform teaching and learning through the use of innovative technologies for students and teachers.  With support from Lesley, our students have become “makers”—creative participants in the educational process by using a variety of hardware and software as they engage in authentic learning opportunities driven by personal interest and 21st century dispositions and skills.  The Cambridge Creativity Commons links CPS with Lesley and offers programs in a “creative lab” model to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration among teachers, artists, scientists, and CPS students.  The CPS/Lesley Professional Development School has a history of assigning students to serve as intern student teachers in our schools to the mutual benefit our kids as well as Lesley’s developing professional educators.

    Even when the school year ends, our partners’ programs do not.  For example, MIT’s Science of Baseball, a free summer camp for eighth graders, brings students to Briggs Field to learn the principles of math, physics and statistics on the baseball diamond.

    The Summer Compass Program, offered collaboratively by CPS and Lesley University, provides a six-week summer program for Cambridge PK-6 students to prevent summer learning loss in an inclusive, child-centered setting.

    Harvard University’s partnership programs are available to all CPS students The university’s Crimson Summer Academy, now in its 11th year, offers economically-challenged students an intense academic enrichment program to prepare them for selective four-year colleges. This free program provides students with a laptop and stipend for any missed earnings from summer jobs. Students who complete three summers receive a $3,000 scholarship to the school of their choice. The Cambridge-Harvard Summer Academy is funded by Harvard and serves as Cambridge's summer high school program offering remedial and enrichment classes for more than 300 high school students on an annual basis.

    I don’t know of any other community in America where public school students enjoy the benefits of a university community like the one we have here in Cambridge.  If you think this is impressive, wait until next week when I get to tell you about our exceptional business partnerships.

    (This post also appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle on October 8, 2015.)

    Posted by jyoung On October 08, 2015 at 2:05 PM