The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School has entered into an exciting partnership with Science Park High School (SPHS), a magnet school in Newark, NJ where students focus primarily on STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The goal of the collaboration is for students from SPHS and Kent Place’s Bioethics class to gain insights by exchanging a variety of perspectives as well as joining forces on research projects concerning bioethics and the environment.
The Bioethics Project
The Kent Place Bioethics Project, now in its sixth year, is a student-driven research program created in partnership with both The Hastings Center, an internationally recognized think tank for the study of bioethics located in Garrison, NY, and Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics. After an extensive application process, 12 Kent Place Upper School students are chosen to participate in this yearlong program. Students are paired with scholars from Georgetown to conduct research on bioethical topics. Among past subjects have been: The Genetic Self: Questioning the Role of Genetics in Modern Society, Medical Decision Making and the Human Life Span, and Donor: What is the Value of the Human Body? This year’s team is examining issues related to the topic: Environment and Health: The Ethics of People and the Planet. Members of the team are: seniors Disha Karale and Sofia Scotto; Juniors Jill DiTommaso. Erin Green, Priya Gulati, Grace McGinley, Afia Oduro-Manu, Sonia Parmar, and Elsie Shi; and Sophomores Haley Bigler, Elizabeth Mastrangelo, and Jenna Smith.
Teamwork and Collaboration
On Monday, December 3, the Kent Place bioethics group met with students from SPHS at Kent Place’s Innovation Lab. Also present were Dr. Karen Rezach, Director of The Ethics Institute; science teachers Rose Chaffee-Cohen, and Maura Crowe from Kent Place; and from SPHS, Principal Kathleen Tierney and Vice Principal Mary Garripoli. Students were divided into small groups to discuss case studies involving issues of bioethics taken from current news stories and social media. Some topic included banning cars from national parks, environmentally irresponsible food packaging, and limiting fishing in New England and bear hunting in New Jersey. The students were asked to use ethical decision-making techniques to dissect the case studies and identify values important to the stakeholders. Next, the groups joined together to find common threads and themes among the cases. The students then presented their findings.
This was the second meeting for the two groups. Earlier this fall, the Kent Place bioethics students and teachers visited SPHS for an introductory meeting and a tour of the campus. “It’s so valuable for our students to hear a different perspective, a different voice,” said Ms. Crowe, a bioethics teacher at Kent Place and a member of The Ethics Institute Advisory Board. “We don’t realize how much we have in common until we get together and share our points of view.”
The relationship between the two schools meshes with SPHS’s course of study. “This is the first time we’ve partnered with another high school,” said Ms. Tierney. “We already have an ethics curriculum and we’re excited to offer our students an opportunity to study bioethics.”
Ms. Garripoli agreed, “Because our school is a STEM school, working with bioethics fits nicely with our students’ interests.”
Continuing to Learn from Each Other
Dr. Rezach plans to set up an online blog so that students from both schools can interact with one another digitally by posting articles, commenting on case studies, and discussing research findings. In addition, SPHS’s students will mirror aspects of the on-going Bioethics Project at KPS. In February, they’ll attend the initial bioethics presentations where KPS students explain their preliminary research to mentors and teachers. SPHS students will then have the opportunity to peer-edit these findings. Later, they'll research their own topics concerning bioethics and the environment, and the KPS students will support them in turn. Students from both schools will attend the final symposia.
At the end of Monday’s session, Ms. Chaffee-Cohen asked the students to talk about what appealed to them about the day’s experience.
Jill DiTommaso, also a sophomore said, “You don’t realize how much you have in common with another person until you get together with them. Even opposing viewpoints find some commonalities.”
Dr. Rezach hopes that The Ethics Institute and the Bioethics Project will form partnerships with other schools in New Jersey and nationally. She says, “Our ultimate goal has always been to scale the Bioethics Project to national levels,” she said. “The benefits of this program should be afforded to all interested students, and will only be enhanced by the diversity of perspectives that students from different regions would bring to the project.”