What is Tops?

Teachers + Occidental = Partnership in Science (TOPS) consists of science outreach programs planned and directed by teacher participants and Occidental College faculty/staff members.

1.) Improve our local school’s science instruction on key topics from the California State Standards, NGSS, and Common Core, through hands-on laboratories employing modern instruments and pedagogy.
2.) Improve student conceptual understanding of key science topics and practice.
3.) Encourage the development of future scientists and science teachers.

Currently in its twenty-second year, TOPS supports over 20 high-level lab-based activities for students in all levels of science courses, serving many underrepresented minority students. The program provides students and teachers at 19 area schools with on-site access to classroom scale laboratory kits and equipment in biology, chemistry, physics, and middle school science. These laboratories are aligned with the California science standards, NGSS, Common Core, and many also align with the AP curriculum. The TOPS program annually serves over 7000 students at schools in the greater Los Angeles region, continually improving grades and enriching both the learning and teaching experience.


What are the Outcomes?

During the summer institute, teachers become familiar with the equipment used to carry out these experiments, discuss and plan the implementation of the experiments in their classroom, and address the safety and classroom management issues involved. Building upon their TOPS experience, several schools have acquired the equipment to carry out labs similar to TOPS labs. In a typical year, over 7000 students at ~20 schools in the greater Los Angeles region participated in at least two TOPS labs in one of the three high school disciplines. Of these 7000 students over 40% were underrepresented minorities and nearly 50% were female. Pre/post assessment using questions from prior State instruments show significant and generally substantial effect size increases in student conceptual understanding of major topics aligned with the laboratory experience. Students who participate in the TOPS program also show a statistically significant increase in their interest in science classes and science in general.

Our Core Values

Building Community

Central to the TOPS mission is building teamwork centered around shared goals including: classroom teachers sharing their ideas and leadership for improved instruction; students working together to understand laboratory experiments; Occidental staff/faculty collaborating with classroom teachers to address emerging challenges.

Provide Authentic Experiences

Science is best learned when each student in a classroom can engage in hands-on scientific experiments with modern tools and instruments. TOPS strives to provide that opportunity through experiments structured for the normal class period, aligned with topics from the California State Standards and the AP curriculum, as well as sufficient equipment/supplies so each student is an active participant.

Include All Students

Reflecting Occidental’s multi-decade commitment to “Excellence and Equity”, TOPS experiments and equipment are shared with schools in all communities across the Los Angeles region and students from all academic levels are included as active participants in the laboratory activities.

Foster Inquiry and Analysis

TOPS strives to provide student-centered laboratory learning experiences that fosters inquiry and curiosity, encourages students to make connections across subject-matter topics, and provides the tools for further analysis of STEM ideas leading to deeper learning.