A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection
(Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco)
(Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco)
Audience: 9th grade teachers
Lisa White, Ph.D.Project Director, Principal Investigator (Contact Info)
Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University
The SF-ROCKS program works specifically with 9th grade teachers and students, focussing on incorporating the local watershed environments of San Francisco into current 9th grade curricula taught in the schools. SF-ROCKS is maintained and run by the Geosciences Department at San Francisco State University. SF-ROCKS offers a week-long summer workshop for local 9th grade science teachers that is run by faculty, students and staff of the Geosciences Department.
A description of the associated professional development workshop content and goals is also available.
What was the impetus for the program?
"Students need better training at the K-12 level if they are to pursue geoscience degrees in college" (Geotimes, Sept. 2003).
Geoscience faculty at SFSU wanted to reach out to more urban students, getting them interested and involved in environmental science and justice issues in their lcoal communities. At the same time, NSF began offering Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences grants. Geoscience faculty at SFSU held a retreat to brainstorm ideas of what type of program to propose and discussed their ideas extensively with the local school district to incorporate the needs of the teachers (see Fall 2003 abstract). After these discussions, they decided to work with 9th grade teachers and students and focus on the environments and watersheds around the schools and in the students' backyards. As a result of these discussions, the San Francisco Unified School District wrote a letter of support of the proposed program that was included in the grant proposal.
How is the program structured?
The partnership includes San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, local high schools from the San Francisco Unified School District, local community groups and government agencies. Faculty at SFSU and CCSF run summer workshops for Earth- and environmental-science teachers from the high schools to develop "community-centered, multi-layered, hands-on mapping and sampling partnership[s] to identify and to monitor environmental hazards and watershed characteristics" in the areas immediately around the schools. (See Geotimes article, GSA Today article, Fall 2002 abstract and grant abstract for more information.)
In the first few years, the program was teacher intensive, as they trained the teachers from participating schools on how to use the curricular materials they had developed. These curricula were developed and designed to be easily incorporated into the existing curricula taught at the 9th grade level. Teachers were provided with lesson plans, activities, and materials that they could use to complement and enhance their lesson plans. Teacher training workshops have been held during the summer to train in a new set of high school teachers. In later years, once the SF-ROCKS curricula was established within a school, and no new schools were added to the program, this workshop was not offered.
After the first few years, teachers were using the SF-ROCKS curricula in their classrooms and would recommend 9th grade students to apply for a student summer institute at San Francisco State University. The 9th grade students selected would work with faculty at SFSU on various research projects for the summer and would present their work at the Fall AGU Meeting.
Who is involved?
Approximately 12 Geoscience faculty from the Department of Geosciences at SFSU are involved in this program at various levels. Faculty worked with local teachers to develop 15 lesson plans that are aligned with the California state science standards. These lesson plans were developed specifically to supplement the existing 9th-grade interdisciplinary science courses and focus on the watersheds surrounding the high schools so that students can apply their Earth science knowledge to their own neighborhood. Faculty develop and lead the one-week summer workshop to train teachers about incorporating these lesson plans and using the equipment. Throughout the year, teachers involved in SF-ROCKS identify high school students who then apply to attend a summer institute at SFSU. The geoscience faculty take approximately 14 high school students each summer to work on research projects at the university. Faculty are paid for a few weeks of their time during the summer to assist in the workshops and work with the high school students. During the fall, they invest 2-3 hours per week wrapping up the high school research projects with the students and preparing for the students to present their results at the Fall AGU meeting (2003, 2004). In the spring, faculty might meet once per month.
Graduate and undergraduate students in the Geosciences department act as interns and go into the participating high school classrooms thoughout the year to work more closely with the individual students involved, assist the teachers with the lesson plans, and provide a link between SFSU and the schools. Utilizing college students in this role works well because they are closer in level and age to the high school students and allow for more interaction between the various partners, yet relieve the faculty of a larger time commitment.
Participating high school teachers are initially trained through a one-week teacher workshop that is offered at SFSU in the summer and taught by faculty members from the Geosciences department. During the workshop, teachers are introduced to the lesson plans, and provided with the materials needed to incorporate these lessons into their classrooms. Typically, the number of teachers in the workshop has been fewer than 10, and the workshop is only offered as needed to introduce new teachers to the SF-ROCKS program. Teachers receive a stipend for their participation in the summer workshop and additional Saturday workshops covering other content and pedagogy issues throughout the year.
How is the program evaluated?
How is the program maintained and funded?
Hints for starting a program like this:
Dr. Karen Grove, Co-Investigator (personal communication)
- A critical element is to identify specific teachers that can become part of the core group of the program. These teachers became engaged in the program and return each year to assist with the summer workshop and encourage other local teachers.
- It is also very important to work within the protocol of the school district, administrators and teachers. The buy-in from the teachers and school districts at the proposal level of the program was critical. Approach the schools with the attitude of "We want to do what will help you" and then be flexibe to meet their needs. This attitude led to a really good relationship between the partners.
- Work with as many teachers and students as possible. Some will be very interested and some will not. Keep the relationships that work and continue looking for more.
Dr. Lisa White, Principal Investiator (personal communication)
- Though the process may take a few years and involve a huge effort, it is certainly worth it: "The more that we do, the better the feedback is."
- Involving the high school students in the summer institute with SFSU faculty is a very positive experience and helps to encourage growth of the program: "The high school students are a walking advertisement for the program."
References and Notes:
- SF-ROCKS: Reaching out to Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco by L. White et al. (2004) GSA Today, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 10.
- Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science by L. White et al. (2003) GeoTimes, vol. 48, no. 9.
- Dr. Lisa White gave an invited poster at the Fall 2002 AGU Meeting on SF-ROCKS: Reaching Out to Communities and Kids With Science in San Francisco.
- Dr. Karen Grove gave an invited talk at the Fall 2003 AGU Meeting on Faculty Activity to Reach Consensus and Develop the SF-ROCKS Outreach Program.
- A poster session at the Fall 2004 AGU Meeting was devoted to Bright STaRS: High School Students Training as Research Scientists. Specifically, students from SF-ROCKS participated in abstracts ED43A-0262, ED43A-0264, ED43A-0268, and ED43A-0270.
- A poster session at the Fall 2003 AGU Meeting was devoted to The Next Generation: Research Projects of High School-Aged Geoscientists. Specifically, students from SF-ROCKS participated in abstracts ED42A-1202, ED42A-1203, ED42A-1204, and ED42A-1205.