Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education plans to expand the breadth and depth of the Advanced Authentic Research (AAR) program offered only at Palo Alto High School and to extend Paly’s Science Research Project program to Henry M. Gunn High School starting in August 2016. This decision was spurred by a vision to “ignite, illuminate and inspire student learning,” according to Supt. Glenn McGee.
AAR is a high school research project for students interested, passionate or curious about one of the many specialized topics offered by the program. By pairing students with mentors in the field most appealing to each student, the program aims to provide students with a network support system and opportunities to work off-campus in a professional setting while maintaining a degree of traditional classroom instruction.
This program focuses on project-based discovery and real world application, two integral parts of Common Core State Standards and the College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards. Based on the positive reflections of former participants like Stanford student Ted Li, AAR seems to have been successful in sufficiently preparing its participants for real world challenges.
“Conducting research [in high school] has given me an appreciation for the process of discovery and also gives me valuable tools that I can use in other parts of my life, whether it’s collaborating with others, delivering presentations or figuring out new ways to approach challenging questions and problems,” Li said.
Paly’s SRP has inspired students to take charge of their own learning in their specific fields, according to senior Alex Hwang.
“Taking SRP was one of the best decisions I’ve made at Paly,” Hwang said. “It allowed each student to be very independent; our grades are based simply on hours logged doing our own individual research.”
Encouraged by the success of AAR and SRP, the PAUSD board looks forward to improving the courses in the future.