Compass Science Instruction Initiative
The Compass Science Instruction Initiative serves twenty participants (ages 17-19) enrolled in the Compass Youth Program, an alternative high school conducted under the umbrella of Action, Inc., Gloucester’s primary social service agency.
Over the past eight years Maritime Gloucester has collaborated with local scientists, fishermen, artists, and other educators to develop a rigorous, place-based hands-on science program that emphasizes a participant-led, assets-based approach to science learning. This model has been refined based upon multiple participant and program assessments. Each year it is modified to build upon the strengths and competencies of the current participants.
The Compass Science Instruction Initiative began eight years ago when a teacher from the Compass Youth Program/Action, Inc. asked us to take Compass students out rowing on the harbor. We repeated the experience a few times that fall and also started showing the participants around our aquarium and the rest of our facility. Encouraged by their obvious interest, we asked Action, Inc. to consider having us provide science instruction for their participants. Action, Inc. accepted our offer, contingent on our providing the necessary funding. We launched the program in September, 2005.
The Compass Science program meets at Maritime Gloucester for four hours each Tuesday for 36 weeks during the school year and includes up to 20 participants. Each week a staff member from Compass attends program meetings to provide continuity to the youth development work that takes place throughout the larger program and to assist with any behavioral issues or personal crises that may arise.
During the program, youth work on hands-on projects in small groups. Projects are developed jointly between participants and instructors and have ranged from conducting year-long monitoring studies at local beaches to building a fully functional 28 foot pedal-powered dragon boat. Each project is designed to improve participants understanding of the content, methods, and equipment used to study physical and life science, to build confidence in their ability to learn science and to provide them with skills to help them compete in the 21st Century Workforce. The program culminates with an eight-week, participant led building project and a presentation of a life science research project.
This program is funded through a Massachusetts Cultural Council Youth Reach grant and a generous contribution from an anonymous donor.