Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

Russanne Low

Science CentrUM
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Background and Infrastructure of Program Office:

Our mission at the Science CentrUM is to provide opportunities for professional development of teachers and classroom support for teachers in K-12 science classrooms. We support University of Minnesota faculty engaged in K-12 science outreach by connecting them to science education and teacher professional development needs throughout the state, assisting them in project development by aligning their products to state and national science standards, and by promoting faculty-directed K-12 science outreach through our website, list serves, and direct mailing. In addition, we maintain close connections with Minnesota's K-12 community and connect K-12 teachers, schools and districts with University faculty and resources that meet their science education needs. The ultimate objective of the University of Minnesota's Science CentrUM is to contribute to the excellence of science education in Minnesota through programs that involve University faculty and staff, teachers, and students.

Science CentrUM has served as an efficient vehicle to support Earth system science education, preservice teacher preparation, and in-service teacher professional development. It doesn't make much of an essay, but I have listed some of our activities below.

I. Supporting alumni in the teaching profession

Co-teaching Scientists and Teachers in the Classroom (COSTS)- an innovative professional development program for teachers, enabling educators to acquire topical science content knowledge by working side by side with a scientist for a period of weeks in their own classroom. COSTS implements global change curricula developed by NASA and is sponsored by Global Environmental Strategies, NASA, and the Limnological Research Center, Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota. Current projects include school year, summer, and after school programs at two elementary school sites in St. Paul, and grant money has been secured by the St. Paul school system to include middle school science teachers in the district.

Earth System Science Education Alliance: Science CentrUM was one of first six sites in the nation offering NASA's on-line graduate level course in Earth system science for in-service teachers. Offered in partnership with the College of Continuing Education and the Institute of Technology, there are three versions of the course aligned with grade band standards: K-4, 5-8, 9-12

GLOBE Training for K-12 teachers (more info) A recent grant from Metcouncil provides funding to prepare 5 teachers in 5 schools in the greater metro area to participate in a service-learning project, ground-truthing the Natural Resources Inventory (DNR) using GLOBE protocols. The grant includes funds for postdoctoral scientist support in the participating classrooms on a rotating basis.

Educators of Distinction in Science: Summer Science Educator Academy at the University of Minnesota
This two week, intensive science content-rich professional development program provides 3 graduate credits. This summer the following courses are offered:

  • FOSS and GLOBE approaches to Elementary science inquiry
  • Global Change: An Earth system approach
All courses include in-class visits by graduate student scientists, who co-teach with teachers as they implement new knowledge and curricula related to the Earth. Funded by Higher Education Services Office and Global Environmental Strategies.

II. The role of introductory courses in teacher preparation

NASA Opportunities for Visionary Academics: The Institute of Technology, College of Education and Human Development, St. Paul Schools and Science CentrUM are cooperating in the development of an integrated science (Earth and Planetary System Science) course for preservice teachers, with support from NASA NOVA.

III. Recruiting, mentoring and advising future teachers

Research Explorations for Teachers (REX)
- this popular program was first offered in 1993 and is now expanding to meet the need for research and inquiry experience for in-service science teachers. Through contacts in the College of Education, we regularly place pre-service teachers at the Limnological Research Center, Dept. of Geology, for their research science experience now required for science educator licensure in Minnesota. Placements have included students that are getting certification in chemistry as well as Earth science.

IV. Links between education and geoscience departments

The Department of Science Education and the Department of Geology are collaborating on an NSF proposal targeted at increasing the numbers of certified Earth science teachers (currently 37% in MN; nationally, 35-38% of those teaching Earth science are uncertified in the discipline).
The NASA NOVA course is codeveloped by earth system scientists and science educators from their respective departments at the U of MN.