Catalyzing Education Innovation
AceraEI is the outreach division of Acera: The Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership.
We believe that early and deep exposure to STEM topics is essential for students to be ready to tackle the challenges of our time, that students’ growth in core capacities like systems thinking, problem-solving, and creativity is as important as academic achievement, and that it is the responsibility of schools to safeguard each student’s spirit, curiosity and innate love of learning, enabling them to be the best version of themselves.
We are proving that this works at our own K-10 STEAM school. We have invented, pilot tested, and put into use new curricula, pedagogy, and school norming approaches since 2010.
Now, we are collaborating with public school districts to customize how our “Tools to Transform Schools” can best fit into their unique school settings to catalyze change.
Flagship AceraEI Projects
Using a nine-unit, NGSS-aligned curriculum he developed and pilot-tested at Acera’s lab school, AceraEI’s Michael Hirsch leads a series of free teacher training workshops in gene editing with CRISPR, the human microbiome, and agriculture. The units are inquiry-driven lab activities that link to real world innovations, enabling more students to envision a pathway for themselves as scientists and innovators. More than 20 public high schools in Massachusetts – representing 3,000 students – have participated in our Life Sciences Change Agent Teachers (LSCAT) series to date.
Whole School Transformation
In a groundbreaking three-year, whole-school approach, AceraEI is partnering with Lowell Public Schools to implement its life sciences, SEEDS, and School Success Dashboard tools across the district. In year one, AceraEI is collaborating with the more than 50 educators at Joseph G. Pyne Arts Magnet School, which serves 500 students in grades K-8.
Measures for Health in Schools
In Fall 2020, Acera piloted the Measures for Health in Schools (MHS) study at both its lab school and at Salem Academy Charter (SAC) in Salem, Mass. The study involved cutting-edge, standards-aligned science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula and positioned youth both as researchers of and contributors to real, impactful research. Through funding from One Brave Idea, Acera provided remote instructional training and Fitbits to students and parents who consented to participate. The study explored the associations between activity, heart rate, sleep, emotional states, and student experiences of pandemic-era schooling.
Students learned about heart anatomy, standard measurements from a physical exam (e.g.: BP, BMI, LDL, HDL), common cardiovascular diseases, and understood the relationship between heart rate and activity. They also learned how to bring interesting, meaningful features out of data, developing insight into the relationship between body and mind, while building 21st century skills and awareness of health-promoting behaviors.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Collaboration with scientists, researchers, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, programmers, designers and musicians is central to learning at Acera. From our early days, connections with thought leaders have inspired our students and teachers to create, innovate, and lead.
Current curriculum collaborators include the BU Social Development and Learning Lab; MIT Media Lab; MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics; Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach; Handel and Haydn Society; and Amino Biolabs.
Opportunities for Teachers
Recent teacher trainings have drawn educators from surrounding communities interested in bringing more hands-on, engaging, and creative learning on STEAM subjects into their classrooms.
Our annual Innovator Symposium is a free community event open to all and is part of our efforts to break down the walls between science and the general public.