SPARC is an alliance of educational, scientific and service organizations to encourage pre-college students’ interest in and enthusiasm for science, especially the biological, brain, behavioral and cognitive (3BC) sciences. Members include the following:

Camden School District

The Camden City Public School district serves approximately 18,000 students in grades K-12. As one of 31 Abbott districts in the state, Camden City Schools are targeted both for receiving state funding and for meeting a number of educational mandates, all designed, in the words of the Abbott Indicators Project, “to maximize opportunities for students to learn” (ELC, 2005).

The district uses a curriculum based on the Core Curriculum Standards of the State of New Jersey, but it continues to struggle to provide a science and math education that is rich and engaging. Measures of academic achievement, including science literacy, have remained distressingly low.

Efforts to improve education depend on many factors, but a key component is the availability of “human capital”–adults who can act as mentors, as group leaders, as role models, and as community supports. In this regard, Camden is especially limited because almost half its population is under the age of 25.

In working with the Camden Public Schools, SPARC seeks to provide additional opportunities for students to learn, especially about science, and to provide additional human capital.

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Coriell Institute for Medical Research

The Coriell Institute is a non-profit biomedical research institute that houses the world’s largest collection of human cells for research, the Coriell Cell Repositories. Coriell conducts its own research on cancer, genetically-based diseases, and human genetic variation, and provides resource support for the Human Genome Project.  The three part mission of Coriell is research, cell-banking and public education.

As part of its public education mission, Coriell has, since 1996, sponsored the Coriell Institute Science Fair, the local area feeder fair for the Delaware Valley Science Fair, which leads to the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).  The Coriell Institute Science Fair serves Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties, the three counties in New Jersey closest to the city of Camden (two other area science fairs in South Jersey handle the remaining counties).

In sponsoring a science fair, Coriell has an obvious commitment to science literacy on a broad, public scale. This commitment has also been expressed at a smaller group level in various collaborations with SPARC over the past decade.  For example, tours of Coriell’s cell bank and research facilities have been a consistent part of the SPARC field trips, both for teachers and for students, and Coriell has been a regular presenter at the Allied Health Sciences Expo. Coriell also sponsors the Kelemen Teachers Symposium, an all-day educational event for pre-college teachers as well as the general public, designed to convey information about the nature and implications of the biotechnology revolution.  As part of its continuing efforts to strengthen alliances among health science institutions and Camden, SPARC arranged for Coriell to use Rutgers’ facilities to hold the most recent Kelemen symposium on the implications of biotechnology and genetics.

Coriell offers a few summer internships for high school and college students to work in its research labs.  The internships provide research experiences and mentoring designed to encourage students to follow science careers. These internships are not targeted to any particular group, but they typically include several students from Camden.  Several students who participated in SPARC and were thus exposed to Coriell, have competed successfully for these internships.

Coriell will share with SPARC 2000+ its knowledge and experience of conducting science fairs to help the SPARC program assemble useful, relevant materials and necessary documentation for science fair project participation.  Learn more:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health, is the major funder of the SPARC Program.  Learn more:

Penns Grove – Carneys Point School District

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Rutgers University–Camden

Computers for word-processing, data analysis and Internet searches are available at numerous locations on the campus.  Additionally, Rutgers will provide library cards to the Paul Robeson library for participating teachers to access research materials.    

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Salem County Science Fair

The Salem County Science Fair is organized and run by a business-education partnership, the Educators and DuPont Partners In Science.  Like the Coriell Science Fair, the Salem County Science Fair is a feeder fair for the Delaware Valley Science Fair.  The fair services the 15 Salem County school districts, including Penns Grove/Carneys Point, in addition to private and home-schooled children, and each year nearly 500 students in grades 6-12 participate (in addition to its competition among students in grades 6-12, the Salem County Science Fair has a competition for 5th grade projects to prepare students for future participation).  Judges for the fair are volunteers from area businesses, such as DuPont, Mannington Mills, Campbell’s Soup, and PSE&G, and institutions, such as Salem Community College, Cumberland Community College, and the Memorial Hospital of Salem County, as well as area residents who are retirees from the educational and business fields.  The Salem County Science Fair is usually scheduled for the last Friday in February or the first Friday in March and is held at Salem Community College

Like organizers of the Coriell Science Fair, the Salem County Science Fair organizers work with the SPARC 2000+ program to help it assemble useful, relevant materials and necessary documentation for science fair project participation.

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