01/26/2012 01:44 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2012

Detroit Public Schools Partners With Cranbrook Institute Of Science

The Cranbrook Institute of Science will team up with Detroit Public Schools in an effort to provide students with more hands-on learning experiences in the fields of science and technology, the two institutions announced Thursday.

The joint program will focus on direct experience for DPS students with CIS's collections, which feature more than 250,000 objects and specimens. The Institute expects to work with nearly 3,000 k-12 DPS students between now and end of the academic year.

The partnership comes at a cost of $174,000, but DPS raised the money through private donors and will not use any of the district's operating budget to fund the program.

Some of the resources offered by the museum include a paleontology and dinosaur program, a space science program that makes use of CIS's planetarium, programming on global and local cultural history and an in-depth course relating to the Great Lakes and the global fresh water crisis.

DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts said the partnership would help Detroit students become "better prepared to be significant contributors to society, particularly in the globally competitive fields of science and technology."

Roberts said Cranbrook reached out to DPS about the programming. "I am personally excited that they would do so to offer their resources to our educators, our children, and their parents to accelerate their growth and development in these fields," he said.

In the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment, 74 percent of Detroit's fourth-graders scored below "basic" in science, and 80 percent of eighth-graders scored similarly, according to DPS data.

Low NAEP scores in science were common in large urban districts across the country, with 14 of 17 urban districts scoring below the national average on the test. Nationwide, African-American students scored about 40 points below the average for all students. Similar trends are evident in math scores.

Michael Stafford, director of CIS, said Cranbrook originally approached DPS about the project because the museum felt a responsibility to help.

"Obviously the standaridized scores reflect that they need help in science," Stafford said. "If the students were in the upper testing echelon, they wouldn't need our help. But the demonstrated need is enormous and we have a real capacity to make a real difference."

A more interactive approach to teaching science and technology has shown positive results for some students. For example, a 2009 Purdue University study of Indiana middle-schoolers found students learned more and had a deeper understanding of technology issues taught through problem-solving, rather than a textbook-based approach.

Stafford said CIS's new programs were designed with Detroit students in mind. The partnership will feature private DPS-only field trips, special training for more than 300 teachers, and membership passes that will allow parents of DPS kids to take family trips. Students will also have the opportunity to develop their own displays with museum staff and take objects back to Detroit schools for on-site exhibitions.

The programming is also oriented to dovetail with state benchmarks in science education.

Stafford said he hopes the program will serve as a model of how public and private museums can work with school districts. He added that Cranbrook also wants to help DPS find partners in other fields, like engineering and technology.