Since 2004, eight of New York City’s leading cultural institutions — including museums, zoos, and botanical gardens — have worked with the New York City Department of Education to support effective science instruction in the city’s middle schools. This unprecedented partnership was called “Urban Advantage” to highlight the unique concentration of science-rich cultural institutions students can access in New York City. Participating institutions include: the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Botanical Garden, the Staten Island Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium, and the New York City Department of Education, with leadership funding from the New York City Council.
Traditionally, cultural institutions have supported formal science education goals only indirectly. UA involves institutions outside the formal education system that support the science-specific goals of the public-school system.
Urban Advantage includes six research-based components designed to support schools, principals, teachers, students and families. They are:
- High-quality professional development for teachers and administrators
- Classroom materials and equipment that promote scientific inquiry and authentic investigations
- Access to UA Partner institutions through free school and family field trips
- Outreach through family events, celebrations of student achievement, and parent coordinator workshops
- Capacity-building and sustainability structures, including support for the development of lead teachers
- Assessment of program goals, student learning, systems of delivery, and outcomes