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Preparing Students for the Future Through High-Quality Science Education
Jersey City, NJ
Known for being the state where Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, the moving picture camera, and the first commercially practical incandescent light bulb, New Jersey knows a thing or two about science.
In fact, New Jersey is considered to be the original center for innovation and scientific progress before Silicon Valley, and it often ranks in the top ten states for jobs in technology among career websites. It’s for these reasons Jersey City Public Schools has made it its mission to enhance its science programs and provide its students with the best STEM-related education and enrichment opportunities there are to offer.
“Jersey City Public Schools is committed to nurturing the next generation of scientists, innovators, and leaders,” said Superintendent Dr. Norma Fernandez. “Together, we are breaking barriers, promoting diversity, and creating a future where science knows no boundaries.”
Jersey City Public Schools demonstrates its commitment to science education through its many STEM-related extracurricular activities, such as their district science fair — the largest in the state — and their yearly participation in the LEGO League robotics competition where they have earned the title of city champions three years in a row. Recently, the district also adopted new, high-quality science solutions from Savvas Learning Company in an effort to deepen that connection and bring their science education to the next level.
“Savvas hit all the key points we needed for a science program,” said Patricia Hudak, science curriculum supervisor. “And because of that choice we've had a really great experience working with Savvas. Not just with the materials and the training, but we've also had the opportunity to work with our (Savvas educational) consultants who have been amazing.”
In the Savvas science programs, Jersey City found resources and materials to help them provide students with the most current, standards-aligned science instruction, as well as hands-on, phenomenon-based, engaging lessons and labs that connect to real life. These new programs, along with Jersey City’s passionate, dedicated staff, will help prepare its students to be scientific thinkers and decision-makers, equip them with the skills to be active citizens in their communities, and to ensure they have access to the technology-related careers of the future.
“As the district continues to embrace the power of technology and progressive approaches, Jersey City Public Schools is committed to preparing our students for a future full of possibilities,” said Assistant Superintendent Ellen Ruane. “Together with Savvas and our innovative science programs, we are shaping the minds of tomorrow's scientists and leaders.”
Meeting Teacher Needs and Engaging Students
At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, Jersey City started its implementation of a full suite of 6-12 Savvas science programs: elevateScience 6-8 and its Spanish version elevarCiencias 6-8; Environmental Science; Experience Physics; Experience Chemistry; and Miller & Levine Biology and its Spanish version Miller & Levine Biología. With the rollout of these new programs, teachers now have access to Next-Generation Science Standards-aligned lessons, online laboratory experiments, engaging videos, eTextbooks, translatable texts, and more — all of which seamlessly and conveniently integrates with Google Classroom through the Savvas Realize® Learning Management System.
“With Savvas, our middle and high school students delve into immersive experiences, interactive simulations, and hands-on activities, making science come alive like never before,” said Ellen, the assistant superintendent.
After just one year of implementation, the teachers are embracing and enjoying the new programs — and they’re seeing a positive impact on student engagement.
“I love Savvas,” said Denise Davis-Gadsden, a science teacher for grades 6-8 at Ollie Culbreth Jr. School in Jersey City. “I love that everything comes neatly put together. All of the information is there for teachers. The resources are there. The kits are well-packed, labeled. It doesn't take me hours to prepare for a lab instruction.”
Patricia, the science curriculum supervisor, said that teacher ease-of-use was on the list of must-haves when choosing a new science curriculum, and Savvas checked that box for them. She also loves to hear when teachers thank her for “saving their wallets.”
“So many of our teachers dig into their own pockets to provide materials for students to do experiments,” she said. “And because of our agreement with Savvas, they actually have access to a lot of materials.”
Savvas not only provides the lessons, labs, and other instructional materials, but also equips teachers with little things, such as clay, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap, needed for activities — items that Jersey City teachers used to have to scramble to find and purchase with their own money.
“All of those things that I used to have to go, ‘Okay, where am I going to get this from?’ Or, ‘How am I going to make this work?’” said Sarah Brown, who teaches science for grades 6-8 at Franklin L. Williams School in Jersey City. “The planning part of it, going, ‘Okay, I know I'm gonna have everything I need in there already,’ for me has been huge for this year.”
Sarah also likes that the materials are customizable and provide options for differentiated instruction that she can use to tailor her lessons to match each of her individual students. “I like all the platform materials, the labs, all the documents that I can download and I can make whatever tweaks and changes … highlight certain things that I know my students will need,” she said.
Dr. Perry Zlotkin, who teaches science for grades 6-8 at Alfred E. Zampella School in Jersey City, is enjoying watching his students become more engaged with science. He says they are embracing the more hands-on approach that the programs offer through the virtual interactivities and investigative labs. “The students love them. They really do,” said Perry. “They're immersive. They're engaging. They’re colorful. And they make connections to real life.”
The superintent agrees that students have become much more involved in their learning this past year thanks to these new resources and the efforts of her district’s staff.
“None of these achievements would be possible without the dedication of our exceptional educators,” she said. “Our talented teachers embrace a student-centric approach, fostering a nurturing environment where young minds feel empowered to ask questions, take risks, and think critically. By combining Savvas resources with their passion for teaching, they are transforming classrooms into hubs of scientific exploration.”
STEM at Jersey City
Long before Jersey City adopted the new science programs from Savvas, the district has had many enriching STEM-related activities available to students throughout the year. They have also collaborated with outside organizations, such as Verizon who funded the creation of an Innovative Learning Lab at one of the district’s elementary schools, which gave students access to augmented and virtual reality tools, as well as 3D printing machines.
“Collaboration is key to success,” said Ellen, the assistant superintendent. “Our science education initiatives encourage teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Through partnerships with local organizations and science enthusiasts, we create an ecosystem where learning extends beyond the classroom, enriching our students' educational journey.”
Aside from participating in and winning the LEGO League robotics championships, the LEGO Foundation granted the district $25,000 to provide its students with LEGO-inspired materials to help them explore solutions to energy conservation.
And in February of 2023, the district approved a one-million-dollar expansion of its “esports” programs. Esports, which is growing in popularity, is short for electronic sports and is a form of competition using video games. The funding will provide new technology and equipment to create game rooms at all elementary, middle, and high schools.
With a foundation made of passion and determination to provide only the best science education firmly in place, and now with the new Savvas programs there to help build upon that foundation, Jersey City is securely on the path toward a higher level of a higher level of science interest and learning among its students.
“Jersey City Public Schools is committed to nurturing the next generation of scientists, innovators, and leaders,” said Norma, the superintendent. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of our educators, students, and Savvas, we are writing a success story in science education that will shape the world for years to come.”
Middle school science teacher Sarah Brown believes that the key to engaging students in their learning is by sparking their curiosity. She believes that if you can grab their attention and get them to be curious before introducing an activity or a topic, then the students will be much more invested in what you’re teaching them.
In her classroom, she likes to start out by showing an engaging video and then ask a question about that video. For example, she will show them an exciting clip about lightning, and ask, “Do you know what that is? Do you know how that happens?” The students don’t know but now they are invested and they want to find out more.
“It gets the wheels turning,” said Sarah. “Find the spark!”
Science Teacher, Grades 6-8
Science Teacher, Grades 6-8