Summer Research Experience for K-12 Teachers
To expose K-12 teachers to the excitement of research, we have recruited K-12 teachers to the Brown Campus over the summer to conduct interdisciplinary science research. Chosen participants worked in labs of Brown faculty and engage in cutting edge research projects in the sciences. Weekly group meetings provided participants with the opportunity to improve communication skills, assess summer progress, and make effective podium and workshop presentations. Summer research participants also attended weekly tours of campus labs. During the final week of the program, participants presented their summer research through a formal mini-conference presentation attended by Brown faculty, staff, and students, as well as attendees from the teachers’ host schools. Teachers are encouraged to work with Brown fellows and faculty to bring this research knowledge back into their K-12 classroom.
We have organized weekly visits of graduate students (occurring during classroom hours) to local K12 schools. Fellows utilize their scientific background and training as they design and implement hands-on, research-based science activities in line with Rhode Island Grade Span Expectations for science. Fellows act as models of working scientists for both the students and the teachers, in order that both groups will increase their understanding of science as a continual and exciting learning process. Many hands-on science modules have been developed through such efforts of graduate Fellows and teachers. Lessons are being formatted to match Providence lesson plans, and relevant materials for each lesson are being organized into “kits”. Lesson plans are currently being data-based by science content area so that they can be easily accessed and utilized by Providence teachers, Rhode Island teachers, and beyond.
Professional development seminars have been held on the Brown campus in the evenings and were attended by Brown faculty, graduate Fellows, K-12 students, and K-12 teachers. For example, Prof Peter Schulz of Brown’s Geological Sciences Department presented a talk entitled, “Shooting the Moon: Looking for Water in Strange Places”. Michael Umbricht of LADD Observatory also offered evening Variable Star Observing Workshops for teachers.
We have organized day-long visits to the Brown campus to allow participating schools to take advantage of science facilities at the University and to help bridge the gap between K12 students and the college experience. Examples of such activities include visits to the Scanning Electron Microscope, a virtual-reality Mars tour in Brown's "CAVE" center for visualization, and the Ladd astronomical observatory, among others. We have found these experiences and opportunities to be critical to student engagement and interest in science. In addition, many of these students have never stepped foot on a college campus, and so this unique opportunity allows the students to believe in a science future beyond high school.
Brown University professors and graduate students have participated in what for them seems like a fairly normal activity – a scientific conference. For the K12 students and teachers, however, this day is out of the ordinary. Beginning with a keynote address in the school auditorium, the conferences are held in all of the 3rd-5th grade classrooms. K12 students rotate from room to room, visiting three scientific talks of their choosing. The event culminates with a reception for teachers, Brown faculty, and graduate student speakers.