Summer Academy Teaches Teachers about ScienceAugust 1, 2014

It might not be the first place they’d think of to spend  three weeks of their summer break, but about 50 educators from across Missouri were in a Rockhurst University science lab recently, working out the kinks in a foam and wooden-track roller coaster, held together with blue painter’s tape and some newly gained engineering concepts.

Since July 7, the educators had been participating in a three-week-long professional development academy called TEAM Science, or Technology and Educators Advancing Missouri Science. This year is the first of the three-year science- and math-centered grant funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Mary Haskins, Ph.D., professor of biology, applied for the $1.5 million grant, along with partners at four Missouri public school districts and two Kansas City charter schools.

“I think there’s that mutual respect that everyone brought something to the table,” Haskins said. “We have a good relationship with the schools and the teachers. It really is a true partnership.”

Access to professional development can be limited for those teachers living in rural environments and teachers from urban areas seldom have a chance to visit with rural teachers about differences in school environments, Haskins said. During the first week of the TEAM Science summer academy all of the teachers were on campus, allowing them to make connections with one another. She said the rural teachers then returned home and completed the summer program remotely.

“We’re also tapping into  national online resources to supplement  our assignments,” Haskins said.

The primary aim of the grant is professional development within the science disciplines, Haskins said, and the teachers taking part have the option of receiving graduate credit for the course.

The teachers who took part said the academy helped them not only understand the scientific concepts underlying the various activities, but also gave them ideas to pass along to their own students.

“I have quickly learned that the reading of content information is only part of the learning process, especially in science. It takes a very well thought-out lesson with engagement and exploration before the explanation and elaboration,” said Michelle Mosiman, an instructional coach at the Grandview School District, in evaluating the program.

Each of the 50 teachers taking part in the TEAM Science activities will bring those lessons back with them, Haskins said, passing them along to an estimated 2,000 students in the coming school year.

This summer is the 10th consecutive year that Rockhurst has hosted grant-funded professional development in the sciences for in-service teachers, Haskins said. The first year of the new TEAM Science program, Haskins said, is focused on physical science, while the second year will focus on life science and the third year on earth and space science. In late September, Haskins said members of the planning team will travel to Washington, D.C., to present on the program at the Math and Science Partnerships Regional Conference.

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