This month Massachusetts “Races to the Top”, making it into the second round of Obama’s education reform initiative; MA competes against 18 other states for $250 million in grants offered to those states making the most innovative reforms to their education systems. Reforms have included such drastic measures as changing school leadership, nullifying seniority rules in teacher layoffs, and closing schools, to the dismay of many districts. At MAS, we have developed a new outreach program that recognizes and thrives on the talents of teachers, and also brings contemporary science discoveries (and college interns) into their classrooms.
If you’ve taken college-level science classes, you know there are some professors who could use some teaching advice! More often than not, many professional development (PD) programs for science teachers are delivered as fact-laden, top-down teaching. Although some offer teachers time to create lesson plans, the pedagogical delivery of the information comes from a scientist not a teacher, with little consideration for how a teacher can turn this new scientific information into a lesson his students can get excited about. On top of this, teachers usually have to pay to attend. To remedy this, the MAS solicited advice from urban teens, urban teachers, urban principals, and urban nurses, and used their input to create our own PD program for Massachusetts.
Scinamic Health: Delivering the Dynamic Science of Health to our Nation’s Youth.
The MAS will be creating collaborative teams consisting of science researchers, education researchers, and experienced teachers. These teams will construct dynamic professional development programs for 6th-12th grade science teachers that are learner-centered and inquiry-based, and that focus on the scientific mechanisms behind relevant health issues. Teachers will be paid to attend seminars that tie curriculum standards like genetics, cell biology, or evolution, for example, to specific health issues teens can relate to, like diabetes, STDs, or hepatitis. The PD programs illustrate the scientific mechanisms behind common illnesses, and allow time for teachers to build unique lesson plans that best suite their students. Seminars will be hands-on and project-based; teachers will learn about science through a pedagogical program they can model in their own classrooms, without sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher! The MAS will link teachers with Nobel prize-winning scientists with NIH-funding research, who are happy to share their passion.
Teachers who bring health knowledge to their students help students to be proactive, informed decision-makers. Students will be empowered with knowledge, but with knowledge comes responsibility. To encourage students to “spread the word” about health, the MAS will sponsor a media competition, creating Scinamic Virtual Ambassadors of Health. Students will create videos, music, stories, etc, about what they’ve learned, and win prizes for teaching others. Using their own social capital and means of communication (FaceBook, My Space, cell phone texting, etc.) they’ll promote their own work. In essence, students will bring science home to the kitchen table, as well as to their school’s cafeteria table.