Teacher Preparation > Supporting Practicing Teachers > Browse Professional Development Programs > Washington Earth Science Initiative

A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection

Susan DeBari, Ph.D. Photo courtesy of SERC
(Page prepared for SERC by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D.)

Washington Earth Science Initiative

Program URL: http://myweb.wwu.edu/debari/web/scied/wesi.html
Program Type:
Professional Development Institute

Program Size:
25 Practicing Teachers
Grade level: primarily grades 7-12


Susan DeBari, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator (website )
Department of Geology and SMATE Program at Western Washington University

Program Summary


The Washington Earth Science Initiative was an intensive three-week summer institute that assisted Earth Science teachers in developing inquiry-based, environmental research projects for their students. These summer institutes ran from 1997 through 2000 and guided teachers in environmental and other Earth science content, various computer techniques, and development of their projects for use the following academic year.

What was the impetus for the program?

Two main thrusts motivated the development of the Washington Earth Science Initiative: (1) a renewed emphasis on environmental issues within the geology profession as well as by the general public, and (2) new national and state science education standards that focus on hands-on learning. Earth Science classrooms are a natural place to get students involved with hands-on activities surrounding their local environments; however, teachers are not necessarily prepared to teach such a course, in both content and pedagogy. Environmental management and other issues are constantly evolving and most likely were not part of the typical Earth Science teacher's original science content courses. In addition, effective inquiry-based courses can be difficult to design and implement. For these reasons, the Washington Earth Science Initiative was designed to work with and support Earth Science teachers in the process of developing environmental curricula.

How is the program structured?

The Washington Earth Science Inititative is an intense three-week summer institute that has been offered during the summers of 1997 through 2000 at Western Washington University.

Who is involved?

Two geoscience faculty from Western Washington University act as instructors and leaders throughout the institute.

Between 20 and 30 teachers from various backgrounds, but primarily 7th through 12th grades, have participated each year.

Other scientists, engineers, and environmental specialists from the community assist in presentations, field trips, and act as resources and examples for the teachers throughout the institute.

How is the program evaluated?

This program is evaluated by many methods inluding a post-institute survey, weekly follow-up surveys during the academic year, ongoing interactions, and follow-up discussions with the teachers.

How is the program maintained and funded?

Funding for this program came from various Eisenhower Professional Development Grants:

Hints for starting a program like this:

From J. Field et al., 2003:
Evaluations revealed "a number of hurdles that teachers face in interacting with community members and conducting research with them. Some recurring problems we heard about include: When limitations to authentic research were recognized prior ro the institute we worked with teachers to develop projects that would engage students in research activities but generally partnerships with community agencies were sacrificed in such instances. In other cases, the problems cannot be planned for in advance."

References and Notes: