National Documentary Project Features Buffalo Science Education Program

Photo of Joseph Gardella instructing a Buffalo Public School class

Joseph Gardella, UB John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry, coordinates a program devoted to rekindling middle and high school students' love for science.

The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership, led by a UB professor, rekindles students' love for science by providing hands-on learning experiences

Release Date: December 5, 2012

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Joseph Gardella, UB John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry, coordinates a program devoted to rekindling middle and high school students' love for science.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A program that's bringing Android apps and miniature racecars into science classrooms in Buffalo schools is the latest subject of Bus 52, a national documentary project that is traveling across America to film people who are confronting community challenges in inventive ways.

Bus 52 team members visited Buffalo's Burgard High School in November to learn about the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), a program that's reshaping science education in the Buffalo Public Schools. A short film that Bus 52 produced during this visit is available at

ISEP aims to improve science education by giving teachers the tools they need to engage students in the kinds of interdisciplinary, hands-on learning experiences that make science exciting. Through ISEP, about 60 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers in 12 Buffalo middle and high schools receive the following services each year:

-- The chance to immerse themselves in hands-on science by conducting summer research with local scientists, or taking a teacher preparation course emphasizing hands-on instruction.

-- A network of educators and science professionals who offer feedback as teachers design new curricula centered on student engagement and interdisciplinary, hands-on learning. Teachers in ISEP engage students in a wide range of projects, from programming Android apps to engineering and racing miniature wooden cars.

-- Regular assistance in the classroom and after school from corporate scientists and University at Buffalo graduate students in STEM fields.

Ideally, students in ISEP classrooms are not passive observers, but curious young investigators engaged in exciting science. As Joseph Gardella, the UB chemistry professor who coordinates the program, told Bus 52, "Doing science isn't showing up at a classroom and listening to a lecture and filling in a sheet of paper. Doing science involves doing creative work. It involves making decisions."

Gardella, UB John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry, leads ISEP in partnership with the Buffalo Public Schools, the Buffalo Museum of Science and Buffalo State College. The program's primary funding comes from a $9.8 million National Science Foundation grant.

Robert Gelb, Bus 52 coordinator, said he and his team thought ISEP was a "special story because of the innovation in not only expanding science education in Buffalo schools, but also providing a mentoring opportunity that integrates current (UB) grad students into the classroom."

Bus 52 is a year-long project. The team travels around the United States, filming videos about people from every circumstance who are confronting important community challenges. The stories are presented as a patchwork of U.S. community innovation, with the goal of spurring viewers to get involved in their own communities.

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