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BEAMS: Instructional Program

Fifth and sixth grade students are brought to the Jefferson Lab for BEAMS every day for a week, where they are involved in a broad range of hands-on, inquiry-centered activities, most led by members of the lab's technical staff.

Selection of School Districts and Classes. Roughly 50 classes are brought to the lab each year from four school districts surrounding the lab. In choosing classes for BEAMS, emphasis is placed on reaching children who wouldn't otherwise have such an opportunity. These include children from inner city schools, those from schools with the lowest test scores, and those from schools with a high percentage of minority students.

Preparation of Teachers. In the fall and in the spring, teachers whose classes are scheduled for a BEAMS visit that semester come to Jefferson Lab for a full day of orientation and training by the BEAMS education staff and three technical staff volunteers. Typically, the day includes an overview of the Jefferson Lab; three or four hands-on activities drawn from the BEAMS-developed collection, including one activity led by a scientist in which the teachers play the role of student; lunch, during which the teachers meet other members of the lab's technical staff; a tour of the lab; and, finally, four activities (including the two hardest) led by the education staff with the teachers again playing the role of student. Veteran teachers advise those who have not been to the lab before and sometimes lead activities themselves.

Because the teacher orientation and training package is designed to ensure the integration of the BEAMS activities into the regular curriculum back in the schools, lab staff provides to the visiting teachers detailed explanations of how each activity addresses the Virginia State Standards of Learning and the National Science Education Standards. The staff is acquainted with the school districts' individual curriculum goals and points out to teachers how the activities will fit in.

Pre-BEAMS Visit to Schools. A week or two before students go to the Jefferson Lab, their class receives a 60-minute visit from a technical staff member who conducts an introductory hands-on activity and gives details of what to expect at BEAMS.

The BEAMS Experience. For five consecutive days during school hours, classes of schoolchildren and their teachers are immersed in Jefferson Lab's research environment, where they participate in about 13-15 hands-on science and math activities in which the lab's scientists, engineers, or technicians are the leaders or facilitators. Detail: Activities

The technical staff also leads the students in several "events": visiting the director of the lab; touring the lab; and visiting with technical staff in their offices or labs ("role-model visits"), where students pepper the staff with interview-type questions.

Over the course of the week, each BEAMS class has the opportunity to interact with at least 13 members of the Jefferson Lab technical staff. Toward the end of the visit, students have an opportunity to discuss with staff the careers to which they have been introduced during the week--how to prepare for them, what one does in them, personal and professional rewards, and other benefits, such as salaries. The importance of enrolling in challenging math and science courses is also discussed.

BEAMS takes place all over the lab, in an on-site classroom, outdoors, in the staff cafeteria, in laboratories, in assembly areas, and at the accelerator site.

Post-BEAMS Visit. The same technical staff member who conducted the pre-BEAMS visit and activities also pays a post-BEAMS visit to the class about three weeks after the students' BEAMS experience. The visit includes discussions by students and teachers.

Number of Visiting Classes. About two classes visit the lab each week of the school year. During the 1996/1997 school year, 56 classes from 10 schools plan to make week-long BEAMS visits.

An Immediate Follow-up Activity Involving Parents: Family Night. After the BEAMS visits, four classes of students and the students' parents are invited to a "Family Night" at the lab to increase the parents' understanding of science, math, and technology, to stimulate the parents' involvement in their children's education, and to reinforce the BEAMS experience. On Family Nights, the lab's education staff talks to the parents, explaining their program's goals and hoped-for outcomes in terms of the children. The staff then conducts some of the BEAMS activities with the parents. The students get a chance to show their parents around and to act as their parents' guides to five more BEAMS activities. The students often end up showing off, which lets their parents see how much fun they have doing science.

Follow-up Activities for 9th Graders. In a program started in 1994, about 5% of the 9th graders who have had the BEAMS experience return to the lab for a few days to learn interview and application skills, to shadow lab scientists at work, and to serve as role models for the 5th and 6th graders who are there that week. Often, the 9th graders lead the younger students through a BEAMS activity.

A New Follow-up Program for 7th and 8th Graders. In the future, to achieve a greater impact, the BEAMS staff is planning to introduce a new three-year program, targeted toward the three neediest middle schools.

In the first year, all 6th graders from these schools will continue to have the BEAMS experience. But they will be brought back in their 7th grade year for two days in the fall, for design-challenge and science-fair projects, and for three days in the spring, to work with some of the BEAMS 5th and 6th graders and to participate in some life-science activities (the focus of the 7th grade curriculum). Then, in their 8th grade year, these students will return yet again for three days in the fall and two in the spring. This time, their activities will be in physics (corresponding to the 8th grade curriculum).

In developing this new program, Jefferson Lab's education staff have been working closely with the principals and guidance counselors of the three middle schools. Their ultimate goal is to keep these students in school (in one of the three middle schools, 20% of the students drop out between the 6th and 8th grades).


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