18 August 2011

Wrapping up a Summer of Professional Development Programs

This summer, fourteen science teachers from Baltimore County and Baltimore City schools participated in the Baltimore Partnership for Environmental Science Literacy Summer Institute.  The teachers spent eight days with Baltimore Ecosystem Study, Towson University staff and graduate students.  They learned about the science behind carbon, water and biodiversity and engaged in thinking about student understanding of these topics.  The teachers visited three BES research sites: Gwynns Falls at Carroll Park, Gwynns Falls at Glyndon and Baisman’s Run.  They met with Dan Dillon (BES) at the Gwynns Falls sites and Ed Doheny (USGS) at Baisman’s Run where they learned about the data collected at each site.  Ed and Dan engaged our guests in a question and answer session.  By the end of the eight days, teachers developed plans for implementing lessons they learned during the workshop into their school curriculum.  Plans are in place to assist teachers throughout the school year with implementation of these lessons and to collect data on student understanding of these topics through a series of pre and post assessments and student interviews. 

In addition to the Summer Institute, five teachers participated in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) fellowship program.  This 6-week program engaged teachers in conducting research with a mentor scientist while taking a 2-credit graduate course designed by BES and Towson University staff.  They were taught by an array of scientists and professors dedicated to our teacher education efforts.  The five RET 2011 projects are described below:

·        Ms. Dana Riskalla, a science teacher at North Harford High School, conducted research with mentor scientist, Vanessa Beauchamp (Towson University).  Her research took place at locations in Patapsco Valley State Park and throughout the Baltimore metropolitan region.  Her research focused on the identification of wavy leaf basket grass, a common streamside invasive species.

        Mr. Mark Kather, a science teacher at Western School of Technology, conducted research with mentor scientist, Andrew Miller, (BES & University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)).  His summer research was related to an NSF-funded urban hydrology project that involves analysis of data from a series of stream gages distributed throughout the Gwynns Falls watershed using Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

·        Mr. Shanshivani Rajendran began his Research Experiences for Teachers work in June 2011 and is scheduled to complete his project by spring 2012.  Mr. Rajendran, a science teacher at Dunbar High School, is conducting research with mentor scientist, Alan Berkowitz, (BES & the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies).  His research focuses on a qualitative study examining whether summer professional development workshops conducted by the four sites participating in the MSP Pathways project support teachers in building their confidence levels in environmental science content and pedagogy.

        Ms. Lauren Catts, an elementary school teacher at Sandy Plains Elementary School, conducted research with mentor scientist, Dan Boward, (Maryland Department of Natural Resources).  Her research took place at the Department of Natural Resources in Annapolis, Maryland and focused on using stream macroinvertebrate communities as a bioindicator of stream health.

·        Ms. Tia Bossiwa began her RET work in June 2011 and is scheduled to complete her project by winter 2011.  Ms. Bossiwa, a science teacher at Coppin Academy, is conducting research with mentor scientist Ken Belt, (USDA Forest Service).  Her research focuses on feeding habitats of aquatic organisms in streams. 

BES Graduate Students Engage Incoming Freshman at Dunbar High in Environmental Science

On Tuesday, August 9th, BES-MSP G6-12 Fellows went to Dunbar High School to help teacher Shan Rajendran get entering freshman at summer orientation pumped about environmental science.  The 190 students who rotated through Mr. Rajendran’s classroom that day were greeted with several engagement questions:  1) Does air have mass?  2) How do substances and water move through the environment?  and, 3)  Do plants respire like people?

Students wrote the questions and their hypotheses in their laboratory notebooks and then discussed their predictions as a class.  Then students recorded the mass of an Alka-Seltzer tablet and a cup of water.  After they dropped the Alka-Seltzer in the water they observed fizzing bubbles rising out of the mixture and many students noticed that the mass went down.  Some of the students thought that a mistake had been made but others helped them realize that the mass had gone down because of the gas in the bubbles leaving.  They had just demonstrated that air has mass!

Then the students broke into groups of fifteen and rotated among stations.  Grad Fellow Julie Baynard taught the students how to use Vernier Labquest probes and chambers with oxygen and carbon dioxide probes.  Grad Fellow Natalie Mollett had students work with a watershed model and predict how water would move across the model surface and why.  Grad Fellow Tammy Newcomer gave students jars of substances such as motor oil, fertilizer, and leaves and had students discuss how substances move with water through their schoolyard environment   It looks like these Freshmen are in for many enlightening scientific discoveries in the upcoming year!