Teacher Preparation > Supporting Practicing Teachers > Browse Professional Development Programs > San Francisco ROCKS

A part of the SERC Teacher Professional Development Program Collection

Photo of Dr. Lisa White Project Director for SF-ROCKS
Lisa White, Ph.D. Photo courtesy of SF-ROCKS
Page prepared for SERC by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D.

(Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco)

Program Type:
Local University-School Partnership

Program Size:
A university, community college, and five high schools
Audience: 9th grade teachers

Lisa White, Ph.D.

Project Director, Principal Investigator (Contact Info)
Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University

Program Summary

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?

Pre- and Post-workshop evaluations are filled out by the participating teachers, as well as teacher surveys throughout the school year to determine if the lesson plans and materials are being used. Occassionally a faculty member will observe a teacher as they work with their students and the lesson plans. Additionally, the graduate and undergraduate interns are available for immediate assistance in the classrooms on a weekly basis. Finally, faculty also participate in associated field trips throughout the year with high school students and teachers, allowing for further discussion and interaction.

How is the program maintained and funded?

Major funding for SF-ROCKS was provided by the National Science Foundation Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences NSF-OEDG Grant #0119828.

Hints for starting a program like this:

Dr. Karen Grove, Co-Investigator (personal communication)

Dr. Lisa White, Principal Investiator (personal communication)

References and Notes: