Monday, February 20, 2017

Minnetonka Research: An In Depth, Highly Advanced High School Research Program

This year Minnetonka Public Schools launched a research center for our high school students. The program provides on site laboratories with specialized equipment and allows highly advanced high school students to pursue authentic research. They work in partnership with mentors from the surrounding scientific, industry, and university community to research an answer to a math, science, engineering, or social science question of their choice. There are currently two research courses available to students starting in their sophomore year. A prerequisite is passing an  AP or IB math or science exam.

This happened after four years of planning and preparation. The idea was brought forth through our idea hunt, an annual process in which all staff partake to crowd source innovation (see Minnetonka Schools: Innovation is Now Our Strategic Plan for more info). Starting last summer, a few classrooms at the high school were remodeled and outfitted as science laboratory spaces. Equipment was donated by many area businesses. Students each have their own lab bench space to perform their experiments and have access to the lab every day of the week.

Students work with teachers and their mentors on detailed project proposals, learn project management, budget skills, keep detailed journals and lab notebooks, learn scientific writing and communicating, read research articles, and more. Student projects that involve human subjects, animals, or pathogens go through a committee process for approval and oversight. The projects themselves are complex, such as:

Inhibition of Bacterial Conjugation Through Regulation of Transfer Genes traA, traQ, and traM with Phosphorothioate Antisense Oligonucleotides in Escherichia coli.

Other student research projects include in more basic understandable terms include:

Self healing plastic as an artificial muscle
Researching cancerous liver cells
Developing an assistive bicycle stabilization system
Health study of Indian women
Improving bacterial DNA polymerases

Hearing these students explain their projects is amazing! Watch a DecemberSchool Board meeting in which staff and students presented about the program. Students in the program post to Beyond the Glass, the Minnetonka Research Blog, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays--check it out for more details. You can also follow @tonkaresearch, check out the Minnetonka Research website and contact Kim Hoehne, the program director.

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