ADI (Argument-Driven Inquiry) Professional Development Training

Synopsys Outreach Foundation is proud to sponsor Summer 2020 professional development training for all 150 science teachers from East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD) in Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI), an instructional strategy that builds student science and engineering skills in the district’s 24,000 students.

“ADI broadens the professional skill-sets of our teachers, ensures equitable delivery of science content, and casts every student in the role of scientist or engineer,” says Paul Kilkenny, Science Coordinator of ESUHSD. “This training creates a seamless confluence between our focus on the next generation science standards and cooperative learning that produces science fair projects,” he adds.

Argument-Driven Inquiry

Leadership in ESUHSD anticipates that adopting ADI as the science department’s signature pedagogy will empower teachers in supporting even more students developing and presenting science projects at sciencepalooza!, the annual science fair of ESUHSD. “We are grateful to Synopsys Outreach Foundation for enabling our teachers and students to engage in project-based STEM” acknowledges Kilkenny.

Advanced Science Research Class: Jennifer Claudio, Oak Grove High School

Ask Jennifer Claudio about her students and be prepared for STEM success stories!  Teaching the Advanced Science Research class at Oak Grove High School, Claudio is committed to building student leadership capacity in STEM.  “My former student, Michael Pham (Class of 2018), has been an active leader of a new initiative at Cal Poly Pomona called ‘Bronco Space.’” Pham has founded and currently directs new student-led projects for small satellite and high-altitude research.  “Michael is a respected graduate from our Advanced Science Research program and he is a role model for our current Oak Grove science students,” adds Claudio.

At least 50% of Claudio’s Advanced Science Research students are Title 1 eligible and nearly all comprise underrepresented groups in the sciences.  100% of the Advanced Science Research students participate in sciencepalooza!, East Side Union High School District’s annual science fair. Most of Claudio’s students attend four-year universities or choose military options.  She is proud to mention that several of her former students became involved in research jobs, including Duc Tran (Class of 2019) who is part of a research initiative at UCSD and Colleen Le (Class of 2018) who is a candidate for an internship at the UCLA Nephrology Lab.  A 2016 graduate, Kim Anh Ngo, who is now in her 4th year at Stanford University, also works administratively with FAST, a program which places Stanford science project mentors at schools in the ESUHSD. “Our Advanced Science Research cohort fosters not only personal growth and exploration in STEM careers, but also the desire to nurture others to find success in STEM as well,” says Claudio.

Jennifer Claudio
Advanced Science Research at Oak Grove is made possible by a grant from Synopsys Outreach Foundation which also sponsors a student science fair project mentoring program, known as SSSMART (Synopsys-SJSU-SCU Mentor Assistance Research Teams).  “The undergraduate mentors from Santa Clara University and San Jose State University are great!” says Claudio. She also adds, “Both my students and the mentors benefit from interaction with each other.” All of Claudio’s students have access to mentors, and by the end of the ‘science fair season,’ most of her students will have had at least some contact time with a mentor. Claudio is assured that her current students will continue the cycle of being future STEM mentors and leaders.

Jennifer Claudio is herself a leader in the science education community. For three years, serving as a mentor in the Society for Science and the Public’s Advocates Grant Program, she helped students of underserved backgrounds participate in science research opportunities.


Society for Science & the Public:Teacher notes: How SNHS impacts student science research in San Jose

Interview with Jennifer Claudio about SNHS used in ASR

80+ sciencepalooza! Projects, a New Record from Santa Teresa High School

With her bright purple hair, Santa Teresa High School’s Debra Dimas stood out from the crowd at East Side Union High School District’s annual science fair, sciencepalooza! “I promised the students I’d wear purple hair to motivate them to come to the event,” chuckles Dimas. Judging from the roaring applause she received as master of ceremonies at the February 1, 2020 event, it is hard to imagine her students needing extrinsic motivation to follow her. Dimas goes out of her way to support students—in class and after-school—from AP Physics to Special Education Science.
Friday is mentoring day for students in Debra Dimas’s science lab. Dimas has hosted mentors from the Synopsys-sponsored SSSMART mentoring program for three years. Between eight and ten college students from San Jose State University’s Engineering Ambassador’s club and general science mentors from Santa Clara University visit her lab each week, from August to January. Dimas praises the program for helping her students be more reflective about their research. “College students are more like peers,” she says, “high school kids respond really well to them.”

With the help of mentors, Dimas shepherded a record number of science fair projects to sciencepalooza! Some 80 projects at the fair were designed, implemented, and presented by around 200 Santa Teresa students. “It helps to have colleagues at Santa Teresa who make sciencepalooza! part of the culture of the school,” says Dimas who collaborated with teachers from different disciplines. Carol Ng, Computer Science Pathways coordinator helped develop project-based learning opportunities for their shared students. Channy Cornejo, a Math teacher, reviewed student data analyses. Elizabeth Johnson, an English teacher, read each student’s work. This dynamic interdisciplinary work between Santa Teresa’s faculty—science, computer science, math, and English—demonstrates the power of collaboration in supporting students for sciencepalooza! projects.

Rookie-of-the-Year: Matt Trask, Piedmont Hills High School

A mechanical engineer by training, Matt Trask worked in industry for twenty years before becoming a high school science teacher. In his light-filled Piedmont Hills High School Physical Sciences Lab, Trask was beaming about the benefits of project-based learning in STEM. “It makes for a good lead-in for science fair—working in groups on projects.”

Trask—along with East Side Union High School district science teacher colleagues at the Yerba Buena, Independence, and James Lick high schools—challenged his students to enter a contest sponsored by City of San Jose focusing on climate change and energy. Students worked in small groups to explore the local phenomenon of energy use on the Piedmont Hills campus in San Jose. “It was good project-based learning,” assesses Trask, “my students did an audit and figured out how Piedmont could save energy by covering the pool, turning off classroom lights, and monitoring energy use in the Cafeteria.” Some students even measured how much solar energy is absorbed by carbon dioxide, a global warming gas. Trask’s students won the Climate Smart San Jose Award for 2020!

The Climate Smart challenge projects helped Trask and his students gear up for sciencepalooza!, East Side Union High School District’s annual science fair. Trask was excited to participate in sciencepalooza! for the first time this year, “Science fair gave me a good outlet from the usual curriculum of high school science,” he said.   “It fits with NGSS,” he adds. Trask described how he emphasized the engineering design process and cross cutting concepts in student projects, weaving together the three-dimensions of the next generation science standards.

Matt Trask

“I enjoyed seeing my students focus on a project of their own,” says Trask reflecting on the power of self-directed learning. “I think they came away with a better understanding of problem solving,” he said.   Trask formed teams of mixed ability students working within the energy strand of physical sciences. “I found groups could share equipment and I could easily switch gears and assist from one project to the next,” he added.

Trask underscores how these experiences—working in small groups on energy projects—provided students with hands-on opportunities for applying science and engineering practices. As a first-year teacher participant in sciencepalooza!, Trask mentored some 130 students through 53 science fair projects. Two of these projects continued to the Synopsys Championship on March 12. Kudos to Matt Trask, sciencepalooza! Rookie-of-the-Year.

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