The New Jersey Network for Educational Renewal (NJNER) was established to promote ". the simultaneous renewal of schools and the education of educators through a collaboration between and among Montclair State University and member school districts as equal partners."
From the outset, Detectives in the Classroom has been influenced by its collaboration with the NJNER. It began in September of 1998, when the Principal Investigator (PI) met with then NJNER Director, Ada Beth Cutler, and described a still-developing idea of creating a curriculum that would teach the science of epidemiology to middle school students, a subject usually taught in graduate schools of public health. When that meeting ended, the PI had what would end up being the name of the curriculum, an awareness of the influence that high-stakes testing has on school systems' behavior, and an invitation to a NJNER-sponsored workshop given by Grant Wiggins, the author of Understanding by Design.
The subsequent Director of the NJNER, Jaime Grinberg, saw to it that Detectives in the Classroom Workshops were included in the program for the NJNER's annual Professional Development Workshop Series. These workshops provided both an early stimulus for the creation of possible classroom-based epidemiology activities, a laboratory for trying out those activities, and an immediate source of feedback from elementary, middle, and high school teachers.
In addition the NJNER provided a ready and willing source of advisors and collaborators. Early meetings with NJNER-member directors of science education Beth Ebler (Newark, NJ), Joy Barns Johnson (Montclair, NJ), and Vicki Madden (Paterson, NJ) helped identify, not only, the middle school science teachers to serve on the Detectives in the Classroom Advisory Board but those who would eventually pilot- and field-test the curriculum.