New Haven Academy is a small inner city magnet high school (grades 9-12) in the New Haven Public School System serving approximately 250 students from the greater New Haven area. According to data released by the City of New Haven in its Fiscal Year Site Based Budget, more than two-thirds of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch which is a strong indication that New Haven Academy serves an impoverished population of students. The challenges of presenting coursework to a disadvantaged population of students are many. Evidence of the basic challenges of instruction can aptly be appreciated by the yearly student performance on Connecticut's 2011 Academic Performance Test (CAPT). New Haven Academy students pass the math component of the CAPT at a rate of 50.8%. Statewide, their peers pass at a rate of 80.3%. New Haven Academy facilities are antiquated and as such the science program and the chemistry course in particular, are restricted from offering a great number of laboratory activities. It is a challenge to overcome these difficulties and offer alternatives to many laboratory experiences typically offered in the high school experience.
Nuclear chemistry and nuclear processes are not tantamount in the consciousness of the ordinary New Haven Academy student. For this reason, this unit is designed to stimulate interest, push understanding and personalize their experience with this topic. This unit will feature a variety of instructional techniques, hands-on collaborative learning activities; structured class work and independent homework culminating in a stop motion animation project that will be a collaborative student centered learning process. Project assignments will be tailored to each student's ability. As Chemistry is a methodical subject that is highly ordered, students benefit greatly from a sequential presentation of material. There is no great allowance for flexibility in scheduling of the subject matter because the material is so hierarchical in nature. Consequently student engagement and interest are of the highest concern as the serial flow of information builds upon itself. Students who lose interest early in the academic year experience increasing difficulties and increasingly struggle with engagement as the year moves on. It is explicit goal of this unit to peak the New Haven Academy student's interest with an engaging unit on Nuclear Processes and Nuclear Chemistry.