A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection
Washington Earth Science Initiative
Program URL: http://myweb.wwu.edu/debari/web/scied/wesi.html
Grade level: primarily grades 7-12
Susan DeBari, Ph.D.Principal Investigator (website )
Department of Geology and SMATE Program at Western Washington University
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?
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.
- Week 1 focusses on Earth Science content. Teachers participate in a number of local field trips led by various members of the community in order to show the wide range of organizations with potential resources to teachers. Teachers also work on group projects, participate in presentations, and interact with local scientists, engineers, and organizations. During this week, teachers also develop ideas for long-term inquiry projects that they could design and implement during the school year.
- Week 2 focusses on the computer skills necessary to develop and implement their projects. In the mornings, teachers learn about various computer techniques such as the internet, Earth Science software, images, databases, obtaining data from the internet, and making web pages. In the afternoons, teachers participate in more field trips as well as further develop their ideas for class projects.
- Week 3 is devoted entirely to helping the teachers develop their inquiry-based curricula so that they may use this curricula in the coming year with their students.
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?
How is the program maintained and funded?
- Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction (Eisenhower Professional Development, 2002): Washington Earth Science Initiative. (S.M. DeBari, PI)
- Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction (Eisenhower Professional Development, 2000): Washington Earth Science Initiative. (S.M. DeBari, PI; $34,190)
- Office of the Superintendant of Public Instruction (Eisenhower Professional Development, 1999): Washington Earth Science Initiative. (J. Field and S.M. DeBari, Co-PIs; $31,896)
Hints for starting a program like this:
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:
- limited funding for field excursions
- difficulties with scheduling large blocks of time for research activities
- dificulty coordinating with community leaders
- reassignment to a different school or grade level
- vandalism of research
- school or district curriculum changes inconsistent with the focus of the developed project
- lack of administrative support or permission
References and Notes:
- Dr. Susan DeBari wrote an essay about this program and other science education programs at Western Washington University as part of her participation in the SERC Developing the Earth Science Teacher Workforce Workshop.
- Field, J, S. M. DeBari, M. Gallagher, 2003, Promoting K-12 Community Research and Service throuth the Washington Earth Science Initiative, Journal of Geological Education, v. 51, no. 1, p. 54-63. (Download full pdf article)