Thanks to our partners, Sanofi US and Students 2 Science, Cristo Rey Newark students are inspired to learn science in a whole new way. Our students are engaged in project based and problem based learning, which greatly enhance their critical thinking and problem solving, research skills and practices, leadership ability and teamwork. All which are necessary to succeed in the global economy.
What makes this science program so unique? Check out these three components that, together, create a pathway to empower students and pique their interest in STEM careers.
A Virtual Laboratory for the 21st Century
The V-Lab program incorporates volunteer scientific professionals that provide in-class mentoring and instruction. Complete lab kits are sent to our school, and through the wonder of modern technology, the scientific instructors conduct the experiments through “Skype-like” interaction on classroom SMART boards. These hands-on experiments include: principles of scientific measurements; production of a gas; thermo chemistry; acid/base reactions; and the chemistry of Luminol.
Once students have completed the V-Lab experiments in the classroom, each class makes a site visit to The Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge in Morristown. Here students are divided into three groups, each taking their turn conducting various field experiments.
One group uses binoculars to observe tree canopies, rivers, birds, and other signs of wildlife. These students are tasked to answer questions such as: are wetlands more prone to growth than dry land? And how would the ecosystem be affected by development in the area adjacent? Group two conducts soil tests, while group three gathers water samples for their experiment.
Regardless of their group, students analyze and record their findings. When each has rotated through the three experiments, they share their observations before they return to school.
Authentic Laboratory Setting
The third component of this exciting program takes place at the state of the art Students 2 Science laboratory located in East Hanover. Employees from Sanofi volunteer to work side by side with our students.
Sophomores Jeremiah Lunis and Milagros Correa (who works at Sanofi through our Corporate Work Study Program) share some of their thoughts about their visit.
Jeremiah: When I first came to the Students 2 Science building, I didn’t think it would have so much equipment and so many instruments. Before we went into the lab, we were divided into work teams and were responsible for certain tests. My first impression of the lab was that all of the equipment was real and expensive. There were a lot of volunteers who were experienced. They explained what we were doing and guided us through the process. But we actually did the work.
Some chemicals were dangerous so the volunteers made sure we followed the safety rules and worked inside protective equipment. Sometimes the googles were uncomfortable, but if we took them off, the volunteers made us put them back on. You know what they say, ‘Safety First’.
Milagros: I was part of a work team that used the Ultra Violet machine to run tests. Our work team was divided into groups of 2 and 3 to run the different tests. I was impressed by the test we did using an Ultra Violet machine. We timed how long it took for the pill to dissolve in stomach acid. We timed the experiment for 10, 20, and 30 minutes and used percentages for the results. Our pills passed the 10 and 20 minute tests but failed the 30 minute test.
We had to be accurate. For one test, we measured 10 milliliters into a syringe, put 5 milliliters of that amount in a test tube, and added 5 milliliters of a buffer. A minor test I did was to weigh 5 tablets.
Jeremiah: Our time at the lab consisted of running tests on a type of cholesterol medication to check if it was manufactured correctly. I ran major and minor tests for our batch of pills. I didn’t realize the number of tests that were done on just one type of pill. Some of the experiments we did were to find out what was in the pill, how well the pill dissolved, the weight of the pill, and the color of the pill.
The batch of pills that my group worked on passed the major tests but failed a couple of minor tests. I remember that the volunteers told us that we didn’t fail, the pills failed. We made two presentations about our data, one as a table group and one as lab partners. I wasn’t nervous because the volunteers helped us and because I talk a lot.
Milagros: I was surprised that some of us had to work during lunch to redo tests. The volunteer said sometimes you have working lunches. The volunteers guided us and provided slides and test results. When I presented, I was scared at first, but no one was talking so I started. We had to figure out which department the pills would go back to if they failed. We decided that our batch of pills had to go back to the compounding group because they failed one of the timed tests.
At the end of the day, I was proud that I finished all the tests that were assigned.
Jeremiah and Milagros: It’s helpful to expand our learning beyond the classroom.
We want to give a big thank you to Sanofi for making this experience possible. We would also like to thank Fr. Greg and Fr. Bob for working so hard on establishing this partnership with Sanofi and Students 2 Science.