The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy has been named one of only 18 nationwide finalists for the Intel Schools of Distinction. In the competition,IMSA was named a high school finalist in science excellence.
The annual Intel Schools of Distinction program honors U.S. schools that demonstrate 21st century teaching and learning environments and implement innovative programs that inspire their students to excel in the areas of math and science. Schools compete for $1 million in grants and awards from the Intel Foundation and sponsoring companies.
"Improving math and science education is one of the critical issues we see facing the United States if it is to compete effectively in a global economy,” said Wendy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Intel Foundation. “It is encouraging to see examples of such excellence from across the country. These schools launch their students on a path to lifelong learning with programs that are rich, exciting and demanding."
The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) is a state agency created to ensure that the needs of students highly talented in mathematics and science were being met.
Science at IMSA uses inquiry teaching methods to engage students in ownership of learning and connection is made to the real world so that learning is relevant and the real practice of science is emphasized.
Scientific ways of thinking and knowing are used to engage students. After a 2004 review by a panel of experts, the school redesigned its core program, adding Methods in Scientific Inquiry which lays the foundation for scientific skills. Students design and conduct hands-on experiments, make observations, analyze data, draw conclusions, and communicate evidence-based principles.
Students also delve into the scientific literature and build understanding by synthesizing information and investigation through writing. These skills and abilities are then extended with the electives and through the Student Inquiry and Research (SIR) program. Students come to realize that science is messier than it is presented in textbooks and become comfortable with its ambiguities and set-backs.
Real-world science application science is key to ownership and engagement. This year the school piloted IMSA’s Energy Center, which has partnered with the Applied Engineering class. Students are adding solar panels to the academic building, constructing an energy-efficient house model, exploring alternative forms of energy, and conducting an energy audit of campus.
Through SIR, students partner with cutting edge scientists to improve diagnostics, search for the Higgs boson, develop nanotechnology-based therapies, and elucidate mechanisms of disease, for example. Project work also supports the collaborative nature of science.
The Intel Foundation will award $2,500 to Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and each of the other 18 Finalist schools.
On May 5, 2009, six of the 18 schools – including one elementary, one middle and one high school in both the Math and Science categories– will be selected to be honored for their extraordinary commitment to educational excellence and innovation. Each of these six schools will receive an additional $10,000 cash grant from the Intel Foundation and an award package including curriculum materials, professional development resources, hardware and software valued at more than $100,000 per school. Sponsors include SMART Technologies and Inspiration Software.
During September 13-15, 2009, representatives of the six schools will attend a series of events in Washington, D.C., beginning with a black tie Gala and concluding with an awards event on September 15 at which one school from this year's honorees will be named "Star Innovator." The Star Innovator School will receive a $15,000 grant from the Intel Foundation as well as additional products and services from the sponsors, bringing the value of the Star Innovator award to more than $200,000.
The school winning this award must have a comprehensive program incorporating innovative and effective use of technology, engaging parents and the community in students' education, fostering professional development and teamwork, and delivering consistent achievement of high academic standards.
The finalist schools have achieved academic excellence in mathematics and science by embracing such 21st century learning skills as digital literacy, critical thinking and problem solving, as well as teamwork and community involvement.
The 18 finalists were chosen from both public and private schools and from rural, urban and suburban neighborhoods. The finalists, representing a wide range of successful programs, are in two categories: Mathematics Excellence and Science Excellence.
The finalist schools in the Science Excellence category provide a rich science curriculum incorporating hands-on investigative experiences that prepare students for 21st century jobs. Programs encourage student achievement in sciences and engineering, while simultaneously helping students to become knowledgeable consumers of news and data in order to be active and informed citizens. Programs are designed to meet the needs of all students, incorporating a variety of instructional strategies, and meeting rigorous education industry standards and assessment benchmarks.
For more information about the Intel Schools of Distinction, visit <http://www.schoolsofdistinction.com>www.schoolsofdistinction.com.
Through the Intel Education initiative, Intel invests more than $100 million annually in its efforts to accelerate 21st century learning. Intel's vision is to help equip young people with the skills required to succeed in today's workforce that will in turn fuel global economic growth and innovation. For more information, visit <http://www.intel.com/education>www.intel.com/education.
Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), the world leader in silicon innovation, develops technologies, products and initiatives to continually advance how people work and live. Additional information about Intel is available at <http://www.intel.com/pressroom/index.htm>www.intel.com/pressroom and <http://blogs.intel.com>blogs.intel.com.