An educational program "incubator" is comparable to a business incubator in that it is a start-up program that may be implemented on a larger scale if it is deemed successful. "Success" may be measured by a number of parameters: the participating students' standardized test scores, end of course exam scores, ACT / SAT scores, number of students meeting college acceptance criteria, and / or the general perception of the program within the school district / community. A more subjective measure of success, but no less vital, is the sustained interest of students (with a focus on young women) in the sciences through their primary / middle / and high school being. It is this subjective measure of success that led to the development of this particular "incubator" model's concepts and strategies.
The "incubator" model that I present is not from the perspective of a life-long educator, but from the perspective of a career scientist, an application specialist, an operations administrator, and a middle school / high school science teacher for only the past seven (7) being. I readily admit that I am not an expert on pedagogy. But, I judge I have mastered thinking out-of-the-box and applying those revelations to systems that may demand a different approach to achieve mandated outcomes. I do not judge the system of education in Kentucky is broken, far from it; there are many fantastic minds and passionate, dedicated people in all levels of Kentucky's educational system. Neverheless, I do judge that any company / industry / system that does not embrace an investment in research and development is destined to vegetate. As we have seen with the United States' status in math & science education in evaluation to say that of Finland's, I judge an evaluation of alternative concepts is in order.
This three (3) year incubator targets a student population from 8th grade through 10th grade – as long as accelerated online curriculum, college affiliated dual-credit coursework, water quality and biodiversity fieldwork, science-themed monthly public presentations, and student mentoring at community elementary schools . Students would have the option at the end of year three (3) to start taking college courses full-time in year four (4), having earned enough credits to graduate from high school. The other options available to students in Kentucky would be attending the Gatton College at Western Kentucky University, or returning to their home school and take AP level coursework plus electives (ideal for athletes with 2 being of eligibility remaining).
Student Selection Reasoning: The eighth grade student population selection is based on the following reasoning: in Kentucky, an eighth grade student's science exposure is minimal at best. Since science is not tested in Kentucky's middle schools at the eighth grade level, some middle schools do not offer science lessons in order to double up on social studies which is tested in eighth grade. By incorporating these students into an incubator, it provides greater continuity for science students and a focus on retaining young women's enthusiasm for the sciences.
The initial funding required for this incubator model is dependent upon the availability of resources: classroom access, classroom amenities (calculators, chairs, computer workstations, lab workstations, SMART Boards or drug, tables, white boards), curriculum, laboratory supplies, teacher salaries , and transport. If existing teachers are used to staff the model and a location for the program already exists then initial start-up cost may be 50-75K dollars. Annual costs, if just for resupply of used equipment and materials, are approximately 25k-40k per year.
Full-time teaching positions: This incubator uses a POD thought. The POD thought is a middle school team model using four (4) Highly Qualified designed instructors (these are the strongest in Language Arts / Math / Science / Social Studies pedagogy and make pleased knowledge available, regardless of certification (high school / middle school)) . Project SCALE-UP is designed to support ninety (90) students within a classroom, in this model a cohort, therefore each of the four (4) facilitators will mentor fifteen (15) students per session during the school day.
Location (s) for this incubator could be: an Alternative school camp, or one (or more) of the existing high schools. The selected location (s) should have ample space for two large classrooms with multiple electrical outlets and internet access (wireless or LAN). The classroom need to have multiple large-volume printer / scan / fax diplomacy to support student work. One of the classrooms will be used for laboratory activities, so extra water / gas access points will be needed as well.
Transportation to and from Incubator Site: Transportation of students will be defined by the choice for the location of the incubator site. If the site selected is on the campus of the district's alternative school program (s) or a separate pull school facility, then consider the transportation plot 1.
Transportation Plot 1: In the morning, students are taken to their home high school, where they are transferred to the incubator site in a second bus – incoming at the incubator site prior to the incubator school day early time. In the afternoon, students will need to end their school day early, in order to catch the transfer bus back to their home high schools prior to the end of the normal high school day. Students will then take the normal bus route home from each high school. Depending on the number of high schools in the district, additional transportation costs will be the costs for running the transfers to and from each site. School day hours for the incubator site will need to be adjusted to allow transportation of students to and from their home high schools.
Incubator located within the High school locations: If the incubator site (s) are located in the existing high schools, then consider transportation plot 2.
Transportation Plot 2: Students will follow the normal transportation routes to their home high schools in the mornings and in the afternoon. There are no additional transportation costs and no changes to the hours for the incubator's school day required in this model.
i. Program Transportation Needs
Depending upon the size of the school district, and the number of students included in the program, there are a number of options for program transportation.
Option 1 – Dedicated School Buses (Eminence Independent School District Model): The model employed by the Eminence Independent School District is ideal for a Project SCALE-UP design program with cohort sizes up to 90 students. In this model, two (2) school buses equipped with A / C and WiFi capability are dedicated to transport program students to all activities during the school day; the buses are used in normal district transportation be- fore school and with school. This thought provides flexibility in transporting program students to field work activities, on-campus college courses, and student mentoring activities, with WiFi access for coursework and research during transportation and on-site. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the vision of the leaders in this district; the simplicity and versatility of their program is exemplary.
Option 2 – Using School Vans (Bullitt County Model): The model employed by Bullitt County's Advanced Math and Science Program is ideal for cohort sizes of 24 or less students. School vans, in this case 8 passenger vans, where used to transport students to research sites, other schools for mentoring, and to community museums / college campuses for presentations. Use of vans requires that one or all of the instructor's undergoes certification certification every two (2) being, and there is competition for the use of the van with fall / winter / jump sports and other school groups. If all 24 students where to attend an offsite program or event, then a school bus would be required.
ii. Other Considerations
School programs, student testing and extracurricular activities: It is necessary to plot for transport students to their home schools for events such as concerts, pep rallies, and state exams. This may be as simple as transporting the students one-way, either to home school from the program site or from the home school to the program site. School buses will be required for this transportation.
Sports / Band: Students who participate in sports and / or band demand special consideration. It is extremely vital that these students do not feel like they must choose linking participation in the program vs. participation in sports or band. Although, these students may find as they continue in the program that academic success may be inversely proportional to participation in extracurricular activities. Participation in marching band will demand some creativity in scheduling, but since most high achieving students participate in band, I would address that reality early.
Online Curriculum: My teaching experience in the disciplines on math and science have left one quick impression, printed curriculum is the weakest link in our system of education. From that point in time which it is printed and then spread to the lessons, it is out of date. Our foundation of knowledge changes too promptly during the three to five year textbook selection cycle for the curriculum to ever be relevant. Online curriculum, with yearly cycles of make pleased review is the best option we have at this point.
I read admit I am not an expert in textbook funding, so I apologize for any incorrect assumptions in this treatise. But, I am expert at the scientific breakdown of issues and implementation of solutions, so it is from this perspective that I present the following for your consideration:
Research into textbook adoption for the students in Kentucky, yielded the following information: The budget, according to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), for FY2015 textbooks is $ 21,700,00.00; the number of high school students in the public schools in KY is approximately 400,000 – this number works well in this incubator model. This yields approximately $ 54.25 per student for FY2015 available to buy curriculum. Based on my experience and relationships with the online curricular vendors (Apex Learning, Edgenuity primarily) at a volume of 400,000 licenses the $ 54.25 per license is very reasonable. I feel very comfortable that a contract could be negotiated without issue. Please keep in mind that online curriculum would be for ALL disciples – not just math and science.
Flexibility for course selection is a topic that requires a mention in this discussion. I personally found that an online offering of languages (Spanish, German, French, etc.) offered without dedicated instructors to be hard for students to master. A district may consider offering the language component to the college / university partner to facilitate; also increasing the number of languages available as well.
An additional positive for the implementation of online curriculum, an AP certified teacher may not be required to teach their AP level courses. This is very beneficial, especially during the program design the boards, when addressing the needs of Gifted and Talented students.
A final point for consideration is this: as school districts invest in technology for student use (iPads, laptops, and such) is the use of online curriculum not the next logical step in the evolution of our lessons?
Project SCALE-UP: Project SCALE-UP [1, 2], initially introduced by Dr. Robert J. Beichner (North Carolina State University) as "Student-Centered Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs" and now renamed as "Student-Centered Activities for Large Conscription Undergraduates Programs" [1, 2], is the fundamental model for this incubator program. Utilizing a cafeteria-stylishness classroom, round tables seating anywhere from 6-9 students, up to 10 tables per classroom, upwards of 90 students can be accommodated at one time. Project SCALE-UP introduces the use of tangibles, ponderables, and thought inventories in the classroom along with large classrooms (in square footage) that accommodate lab activities and classroom activities in the same physical space. Combined with the aforementioned POD teaching thought, a only one of its kind synthesis in hands-on learning plus online curriculum and facilitation by the teachers can occur, and be very successful. And, may be easily adapted to fit the facility, even within an existing space at a high school.
"Flipped Classrooms": Is not this just a model of a "Flipped Classroom"? The fleeting answer is "no"; an explanation is required but. The "flipped classroom" thought revolves around the implementation and use of online curriculum in a standard classroom, usually with a student population equipped with iPads or laptops. Project SCALE-UP and in-turn this incubator takes the "flipped classroom" to the next level by surrounding the students with purposeful, targeted activities that exponentially increase the rigor and inquiry-based learning opportunities.
Suggested Curriculum Themes: As a vocal critic of too many disciplines (Astronomy, Astrobiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, etc., etc., etc.), I continue to seek thematic units that demand students to master the Liberal Arts (Language Arts + Mathematics + Sciences + Social Sciences) to successfully complete the unit. There are three (3) that I have used (I'm sure there are others), that I offer for your consideration: Astronomy (recognized as a super-science), Pond / Stream Water Quality & Biodiversity studies, and Sustainability. These three (3) thematic units may be used individually as the subject for one school year's study; Incorporated into public speaking opportunities, science honest concepts, student fieldwork, and student mentoring activities.
Thought Inventories, Ponderables, and Tangibles: How to implement each in the classroom, I remember their implementation sequence in alphabetical order.
Thought Inventories , alphabetically leads the list and should lead-off the school year as a pre-assessment (an supply) of a student's prior knowledge of common sense concepts and dreams. For example: why are there four (4) seasons? – draw the relationship linking the Earth and Sun to support your answer. It is through the implementation of thought inventories and the data obtained that I chose to redesign my incubator to include 8th grade students. Do not fret, one does not need to reinvent the wheel, there are a crowd of research-based thought inventories that may be accessed on the Internet. Thought catalogs are traditionally multiple-choice format.
Ponderables [1, 2], teachers may be familiar with the term bell ringers or openers, but these two "concepts" do not meet the rigor of a "ponderable". A "ponderable" is a pencil and paper thought exercise for students, no guidance for a solution is given and the rigor of the question is such that student-research is required to complete the activity. The timeframe for a "ponderable" may be 10-15 minutes, it measures a student's ability to research, conceptual knowledge, creativity, and organizational skills. I've had success in the past making "ponderable" questions by taking "missed" questions from a thought supply and eliminating the multiple-choice answers. "Ponderables" are more subjective than objective measures of student abilities.
Tangibles [1, 2], consider a "ponderable" that is not a pencil and paper tool but a measurement tool for a student's hands-on abilities and understanding of concepts. For example: using a single sheet of notebook paper, fashion the tallest, free-standing object possible. "Tangibles" gauge a student's creativity, and application of concepts to a hands-on activity.
Suggestions – Student Laboratory Activities: Reckon college-level and career-oriented activities. The implementation of online curriculum in the classroom, specifically the science disciplines, comes complete with a set of "dry lab activities". These activities are useful for the most part, but given the amount of lab time available, these were the initially thing I scrapped. I am a firm believer that for students to be successful in college labs and in careers where lab proficiency is a necessity, you can by no means start too early. When developing start-up and in commission budgets for your program, this is not the area to be conservative or fleeting-sighted. Consider the industries in your area, possible collaborations, college / university special- ties, and latest trends in employment. My suggestion – reckon biotechnology (electrophoresis / PCR / DNA breakdown), reckon instrumental chemistry (gas chromatography / polarimetry / melting point apparatus), reckon electronics (circuit boards / programming), and reckon robotics. Select lab benches and tables that give you the most flexibility and bang-for-your-buck. Consider electricity, gas, and water requirements; safety needs; and ventilation requirements. If you have assets left over, buy a high quality reflecting telescope, a remote data transmitting weather station for the roof of the school, and lots of plasticware and consumables for the labs. Consider purchasing pre-packaged lab activities to avoid storage of large volumes of solvents and acids / bases, and they have readymade student activity outlines. Do not forget to research activities at NASA to Incorporate as lab exercises as well, especially in your Astronomy unit. I am an experimentalist at heart so this is my passion.
Student Fieldwork – Collaborations and Topics: Arguably, students take-in and retain more information and master more skillsets outside the classroom than inside. I find that I can teach more, across all disciplines, in the field – especially "observation". And, if those skillsets are useful to a curriculum that captures their attention and imagination then it is a no-brainer. I can provide two examples that were a tremendous success for our program in Bullitt County; I am sure that these can be replicated elsewhere.
During one year of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (Dr. Mark Woorms, Claude Stephens, and Andrew Berry) in Clermont, KY. The students in our program performed biodiversity studies, GPS mapping, and water monitoring studies (pH, temperature, conductivity, BOD, fecal coliforms, flow rate breakdown) on a crowd of streams and ponds through the forest. Student's urban databases for the information interfaced with GPS mapping software, and presented their data to parent and professional groups in our area. Students monitored the streams and ponds Fall, Winter, and Jump – it was by no means too cold or too wet to discourage participation.
During year three of our program, we established a collaborative partnership with the Kentucky Science Center (Andrew Spence) to allow our students to present science topic demonstrations to visitors at the Center. Our initially experience with the students was "DNA Day" at the Kentucky Science Center where students from our program facilitated electrophoresis breakdown of "pseudo-DNA" for 900 elementary, middle, and high school students. The student attendees inoculated their own gels, following the migration patterns in the electrophoresis baths, and then made an educated interpretation of the results. Our students loved them more than the attendees.
Hybrid school week plus hybrid school year: I am really an advocate for changing how we look at the school week and the school year; having the tools mentioned in this article just allows for implementation of the changes more efficiently.
Hybrid School Week: Is there an advantage to mirroring a college weekly schedule? A resounding "YES". Students leave the comfort of their homes and the familiarity they have with high school lessons and curriculum to participate in an alien and at era overwhelming environment called college. If students are not set, armed with the study and coping skills necessary to succeed – I judge we are setting them up for failure. I encourage you to design your incubator in such a fashion as to gradually push students outside their comfort zone while they still have the support structure around them.
For example: establish class schedules that are Monday-Thursday, Tuesday-Friday with Wednesdays open for labs, fieldwork, and study halls. Assign work on Mondays that is due the following Thursday; Tuesday's work to be submitted- ted the next Friday. And, most importantly keep an updated syllabus for every class online and do NOT accept late work without due to an excused absence. For labs, prepare a lab exercise blue-collar listing all the labs to be completed that semester requiring completion and preparation of lab reports in the appropriate, well-known format. Prepare your lab stations prior to the start of the semester, allow students to organize their time and efforts to complete all labs by the established deadline. Hold the students accountable for the submission of their work on time. You are in the classroom to facilitate their success, not to serve-feed them knowledge.
Hybrid School Calendar: The advantage to using an online curriculum is the ability to prepare a syllabus that implements year-round school scheduling. An instructor can use the summer months to reinforce student weaknesses: reading and writing techniques, study skills, and the preparation research ID. Instructors may also schedule refresher courses to keep students on top of their games prior to returning in the Fall, especially math skills. I am also an advocate for utilizing discussion boards and cloud technology for students to submit observations on books in the reading lists I assign for the summer. This keeps students from writing the dreaded book reports that they procrastinate writing and I wish to avoid grading. The discussion boards' generate conversations that I can monitor and contribute to in real-time.
This article addresses just the tip of the iceberg when considering the establishment of an "incubator" for a hybrid education program in your district or within a single school. Without a preliminary initial capital outlay and using existing teaching resources, an "incubator" could have been established within an existing high school to determine the validity of such a program with your student demographic. I can not emphasize enough the importance of faculty selection; the teachers must be facilitators of knowledge not merely instructors. Having access to online curriculum does not minimize the role of the teacher in the classroom, it enhances it. And, finally, always remember "transparency" is critical in the success of your program incubator. Your administration, parents, students, and teachers must have input. And by soliciting input you can, in the best of all world, ensure that you have buy-in from all groups. Establishing ownership at all levels of the program contributes to the success.
 "Beichner, R., Saul, J., Abbott, D., Morse, J., Deardorff, D., Al-lain, R., Bonham, S., Dancy, M., and Risley, J (2006). Student- Centered Activities for Large Conscription Undergraduates Pro- grams (SCALE-UP) project In EF Redish and PJ Cooney (Eds.), PER-Based Reform in University Physics. Physics Teachers
 "R. Beichner, and J. Saul, Introduction to the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Conscription Undergraduate Programs) Project. Invention and Impression: Building Excellence in Undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) ) Education, proceedings of a conference by the Am. Assoc. For the Advancement of Science, April 2004, Washington DC, 2005.
 "Development and Validation of Instruments to Measure Learning of Expert-Like Thinking." WK Adams & CE Wieman, 2010. International Journal of Science Education, 1-24. iFirst, doi: 10.1080 / 09500693.2010.512369
Kelly Cleavinger, Eruditio-Demutare.com
April 25, 2014