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Science Summer Program Sends Students to Head of the Class

UCR Copernicus Project Provides Opportunity for Students to Teach Students

High schoolers who participated in the Project’s Science Summer Institute see the light of their own lesson plan while teaching in grade school classrooms.

(November 30, 2007)

High school students (from left to right) Julian Sachs, Chi Nguyen, and Guadalupe Sanchez teach their own lesson plan to grade school students.Enlarge

High school students (from left to right) Julian Sachs, Chi Nguyen, and Guadalupe Sanchez teach their own lesson plan to grade school students.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Not only did high school students give up a week of summer vacation to attend UCR’s Science Summer Institute (SSI), but now they are spending more time in school teaching grade schoolers. On Dec. 7, four participants of the Copernicus Project’s SSI program will be giving a lesson on electric circuits to Riverview Elementary School students in Norco.

During SSI held at UCR in early July, high school teachers and hand-picked high school students or future teachers are inspired by interesting experiments and innovative lesson plans for teaching science. The high school students get their first glance at what goes on behind the scenes in lesson planning and then prepare their own to teach at nearby grade schools.

“Students are able to use the model taught to them during SSI for teaching grade school students,” said Steve Gomez, co-director of the Copernicus Project. “The lesson on electric circuits is presented to the fourth graders as how a light bulb works.”

The future teachers will provide the materials consisting of wire and a battery to the grade schoolers and assist them through the process, encouraging them to think creatively.

“The students get really excited about it and ask questions that might surprise you coming from a fourth grader,” Gomez said. “They have very innovative ideas on how make the light bulb work.”

The future teachers will be using their lesson plans at grade schools throughout the Inland region, including Riverside and Palm Springs.

The overall theme of these programs is to illustrate how the subject they are learning relates to their lives and the lives of their students.

Copernicus, now in its third year, focuses on identification of future science teachers to offset predicted shortages over the next several years. The outreach program was launched by an $11.5 million grant to be used over five years to fund initiatives and programs to identify and recruit future science teachers. It is estimated that from 2001 to 2010 approximately 250,000 teachers must be hired in California. So far this year, approximately 150 students and teachers enrolled in Copernicus summer outreach programs.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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