KU is offering middle school teachers hands-on research experiences in an effort to enhance student learning and engagement.
“If students don’t get interested in science in junior high, it’s hard to attract them in high school—let alone college,” said Joe Heppert, director of KU’s Center for Science Education and chair of the Department of Chemistry.
The Middle School Science Academy Research Experiences give teachers a four-week immersion in modern scientific or engineering research in a laboratory at KU. Many middle school teachers have had little exposure to university-level research. This summer, the teachers will be doing science, not just learning about science, Heppert said.
The academy ran June 2-27 and is the first phase of a three-year program. Future phases include:
— 2009: Two weeks of university-level science instruction coupled with curriculum development
— 2010: Modeling of research-based teaching methods and technology and practice in implementing such strategies
“These hands-on experiences substantially enhance teachers’ science-content backgrounds,” Heppert said. “The three-year program will give them a clear grounding in the nature and practice of the scientific enterprise.”
The academy is a collaboration of the Center for Science Education, Topeka Public Schools and Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools. Funding is provided by the Kansas Board of Regents.
In May, the Center for Science Education sponsored another academy program for Kansas City, Kan., middle school teachers titled “Ecology and Evolution: Helping Students Understand a Changing World.” To promote creativity and multiple learning styles, the group included fine arts teachers as well as science teachers. The art and science collaboration is part of the Lied Center’s Creative Campus grant, awarded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to promote strong models for interdisciplinary research between the sciences, arts and humanities.
The evolution and ecology program was funded through a National Science Foundation grant as part of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The foundation established EPSCoR as a way to promote scientific progress in states that have traditionally received lesser amounts of foundation research and development funding.
The KU faculty and staff involved in presenting this summer’s Middle School Science Academy programs are: Heppert; Steve Case, associate director, Center for Science Education; Allen Macfarlane, scientist, Kansas Geological Survey; Bob Hagen, research associate, KU Field Station and Ecological Reserves; Doug Huffman, School of Education; Brad Williamson, associate director, Center for Science Education; Janis Lariviere, associate director, Center for Science Education; Billie Archer, grant coordinator, Center for Science Education; Sarah Delgado, administrative assistant, Center for Science Education; and Megan Fowler, KU student and future science teacher.
Established in 2000, the Center for Science Education is an interdisciplinary collaborative venture intended to improve science education at KU and throughout Kansas and contribute to scholarship in science on a national and international level. Center activities involve scientists, science educators and education specialists from many units on the Lawrence campus, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, the School of Engineering, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Center for Research on Learning.