SEWS: A Partnership with Community House and the Princeton Center for Complex Materials

Images of the summer 2012 SEWS participants in the classroom and at the Open House

For the fourth consecutive summer, Community House (CH) and the Princeton Center for Complex Materials (PCCM) partnered to provide local middle school students with a two-week summer program focusing on science, math and writing.  The Summer Explorations in Writing and Science program, or SEWS as it’s known at Community House, offered twelve middle school students opportunities to do hands-on science experiments and engaged them in activities in math and writing. SEWS is supported by the National Science Foundation through PCCM.  Local high school volunteers supported the instructors and supervised the participants during classes and activities including field trips to Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, NJ and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.

Spotlight on SEWS math classes:

To begin their math experience, Dr. Jennifer Jones led SEWS participants by engaging them in a reflective group activity establishing themselves as members of a Mathematics Learning Community.  Jones commented, "This was important because students would be solving and discussing interesting isomorphic combinatoric problems (counting problems with common mathematical structure) by themselves, with partners and in small groups."

Students worked with manipulatives (e.g. plastic cubes) to solve different problems, one of which was the Pizza Problem.  Strategizing together and recording their solutions, one group collaborated to list all of the possible combinations of unique pizzas that could be ordered using a selection of 4 toppings.

Jones held class discussions throughout the program to help students analyze how they arrived at solutions to their assigned word problems.  Describing other projects, Jones explained, "Students were also given activities to help them explore the structure and patterns in Pascal’s Triangle, such as arithmetic sequences, square numbers, and Fibonacci sequence numbers."

The last days of SEWS were not spent testing the students on what they had learned.  Instead, students prepared visuals to represent their work at the Open House at the end of the two-week program, allowing them to "relax and reflect on all of the mathematics activities and discussions with each other as valued members of the mathematics learning community."