High schools team up with UMass Lowell

12/24/2006
By From the Lawrence Eagle Tribune

By Colin Steele
Staff writer

Local high school juniors and their teachers could be going to college next fall.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is planning an enrichment program for students interested in learning about engineering and technology and for teachers who want more training in those subjects. It's called the Technology, Engineering and Math-Science Academy, and a pilot program this fall got the ball rolling.

About 270 sophomores participated in the pilot program, taking workshops on alternative energy, crime-scene investigation, nanotechnology and other high-tech subjects.

"They enjoyed the experience of working with the professors and their equipment and the kids from other schools," said Peter Kalafarski, the science and technology supervisor at Haverhill High School.

If state funding comes through for next year, the TEAMS Academy will be open to about 50 juniors from 15 local communities, including Andover, Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen. State Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, helped secure the money to pay for this year's pilot program.

The courses, held during the school day, would supplement what students learn at their own schools and feature subjects from outside the traditional high school curriculum, such as robotics and biotechnology, said John Ting, dean of the Francis College of Engineering at UMass Lowell.

Andover High School, for example, has just one engineering course, and some students can finish the entire math curriculum in three years.

"We can't offer what we should, or would like to, for students who are particularly interested in these subjects," Andover Superintendent Claudia Bach said.

UMass Lowell officials are still planning the details of next year's program but have already decided that pairs of college professors and high school teachers will lead the classes.

"That's the best part," Bach said. "The two of them together are a dynamite combination."

Co-teaching will give high school teachers valuable training and experience to take back to their schools and share with their other students, Bach said.

The academy is modeled after a similar program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The plan is to get it up and running with 11th-graders next year, then expand it to include 12th-graders the following year, Ting said.