Boca Raton · In a middle school with a voracious appetite for innovation, half a dozen teachers are pushing back the walls of the classroom.
They’re using cameras so that students at home or on vacation can get their lessons.
Podcasting and live streaming video from classes at Don Estridge High Tech Middle School are parallel experiments to discover how cameras can add to learning.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to generate more interest in this year’s Palm Beach County School District Science and Engineering Fair.
It just took a little cash. Add the buzz about Scripps Florida and, of course, the science FCATs, and entries in this year’s science fair are up more than 40 percent.
More than 1,000 entries, up from last year’s 700, are a sign of health for the 50-year-old county science fair as it showcases middle and high school projects today at the South Florida Fairgrounds.
“We want to make sure that science is as important as athletics, and we’ve been pushing teachers to be more involved in science research,” Barch said.
The annual stipend is $1,700 for middle school and $2,900 for high school teachers. To earn it teachers must attend workshops, do extra paperwork, coordinate a school science fair and take their top students to the county competition.
Dovetailing with that financial motivation is new emphasis on the science portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test this year. It is the first time FCAT science scores will be a factor in determining the grade a school earns from the state. In past years, the school grade was based on FCAT scores only in reading, writing and math.
“Teachers are so concerned with preparing for the FCAT that sometimes in the past, teachers didn’t want to spend much time on things like the science fair,” Barch said.
The merging of the stipend and FCAT goals are complemented by the visibility of Scripps in the county and a growing interest in biomedical careers, Barch said.