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Palo Alto Unified: Advanced Authentic Research program (AAR)

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- AAR is a program as well as a course where kids can develop their own project ideas and execute them with the help of a mentor in the community. - My project is studying two-dimensional materials, specifically graphing, which is a single layer of carbon atoms and how it can be used as a sensor for chemicals. - We're working on a project with a health tech start-up called HeMoClo, to try to bridge the gap between patients and doctors in rural India. - My project is working on a novel called RS802, and it's a science fiction, young adult novel, which is looking at the consequences of environmentalism in the future. - [Deanna] Too many times, kids are told what to do, "Take this, do this." "Here's the requirements." And I want them to have ownership but I want them to have a voice. - You really feel like you're connecting to someone in the world outside your school. It's really great to work with someone who has a lot of expertise. And it's really great to work with someone who's super passionate about something that you're rally interested in. - And it's fun, it's joyful. I mean they devote hours to this. And what I especially appreciate about the students here is their resilience. And as they develop a work product, as they do their research, you know, more often than that, they make mistakes. You know, things don't work as planned. But they're determined. They develop this sense of determination and, "I'm gonna make this work." And they create their own network of working with their mentors, finding others who can support them. - Like my favorite classes were always chem or physics, but in the classroom, when we do labs, it's like, you know that there's a solution, and you know what the solution is sort of supposed to be. And you kind of like work towards that solution. But in doing research, no one really knows what the solution is and so you're really actually just exploring like a completely dark field that no one knows about. And you're kind of shedding light into it. And that's a pretty cool, pretty rewarding feeling, I think. And so I think it's like a good experience of what research might be like if I choose to pursue it, which right now, I think I really would like to. - I realize that there's a lot of like fields within science that I have absolutely no idea about. And that even if I don't know about them or even if I've never heard of them it doesn't mean that they're not interesting, and that there's just so much more to the world than I originally expected. There are so many more fields that I can go into and so many things that I can do having had this program to like, explore, and learn about things that I never thought I'd be interested in, like climate change is not something I ever thought I'd be studying. It's not a very interesting, it doesn't seem like a very interesting field but it's still really important and relevant. And, I mean, I'd like to continue thinking about that and maybe contribute to that field some day if I could. - They so want this. It resonates with them. They want to connect with other adults. They want to do things that they get to decide. So I think that enthusiasm for that is kind of the best part. Connecting kids to people in the adult world who pursue these disciplines, asked these same questions, I think that's a really important piece for kids to feel like this isn't just an academic pursuit, it's a practical pursuit. It's an opportunity to look at what real people are doing everyday for their jobs. That's a component we don't see as much of as maybe we will in the future. - I would definitely recommend other school districts adopting a program like AAR, allowing kids to pursue their passions in something that's really specific. And it also really teaches you how to be a self-starter and how to motivate yourself. And I think that's a really valuable life skill.