December 24, 2001 12:00 PM

At Madison Middle School in North Hollywood, Calif., teacher Jayne Lawson is laying down the law to a classroom full of noisy seventh graders. “Respect all alien culture,” she intones. “And one sign of respect is not to talk when your training officer is talking.”

The attentive silence that follows seems especially remarkable given that Lawson is decked out in a Star Trek uniform. But here at the Star Fleet Academy—actually two classrooms transformed into an evocation of the cult TV phenom-300 sixth-through eighth-grade math and science students are boldly going where no schoolkids have gone before.

The brainchild of Lawson, 46, and her colleague Celisa Edwards, 35, both longtime fans of the show, Madison’s Trek-themed learning program stars uniformed teachers known as “commanders,” student “cadets” and homework “missions.” “It’s cool,” says seventh grader Alan Ruiz, 12. “Before, I wasn’t interested in math or science. Now I am.”

Indeed, since the academy began in ’94, students’ grade-point averages have improved, and test scores have jumped 30 percent. “Through this wonderful, high-energy theme,” says principal Joanna Kunes, “kids get involved in spite of themselves.”

Still, neither Lawson nor Edwards, both of whom are married and have Trekkies of their own, will claim full credit. “We all work together to make this starship run,” says Lawson. “Resistance,” adds Edwards with a wink, “is futile.”

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