What did you do on your summer vacation? For 14 Philadelphia School District teachers, they attended The Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers, a four-week session at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia to enhance the classroom experience for their students.
(Teachers make ice cream with liquid nitrogen; a group photo of the Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers; and one of the Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers finds out that Mentos® and diet soda do cause a reaction.)
The teachers, who represent 11 different schools, attended the all-day sessions that exposed them to an inquiry-based curriculum focusing on exploration, explanation, and application. The program challenged teachers to explore scientific principles and develop student-centered lessons that they could use in the classroom.
“The teachers and faculty can’t believe how fast the four-week intensive professional development program has gone,” said Dr. Lois H. Peck, program director and professor of biology. “The teachers have been highly engaged in exploring science concepts and principles. Their enthusiasm was catching, and they are now ready to enhance their teaching of science and stimulate their students to enjoy science.”
The teachers worked in lecture and laboratory settings. For example, during the course of one day, the teachers explored the reaction when Mentos® are inserted into diet soda before turning their attention to the principles behind making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Those are all experiments that can be recreated in the classroom lab and capture the attention of their students while imparting scientific knowledge.
The Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers began on June 30 and finished on July 24. The classes were taught by University of the Sciences' faculty members, Dr. Catherine Bentzley, associate professor of chemistry; Catherine Purzycki, instructor of biological sciences; Dr. Stephen Rodrigue, visiting assistant professor of physics; and Amy Kimchuk, instructor of mathematics.
Previously supported by grants in its first two years, The Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers was supported by the School District of Philadelphia for $50,000. The School District has already pledged to support it next year as well.
In addition to helping with lesson plans, each teacher is given a personalized labcoat, a gift certificate from the School District for equipment, and a one-year membership to the National Science Teachers Association.
“As a faculty, we developed this program together. It wasn’t a canned program, and we wanted it to be inquiry based with a multidisciplinary approach,” explained Peck, who also serves as the University's director of the science teacher certification program. “We found the teachers were fully engaged in the inquiry-based learning and worked with our professors in an integrated approach so that it was math and science together.”
Upon completion, each teacher received a kit filled with equipment and supplies to enhance his or her teaching. The institute teaching staff is also providing resources and teaching support for each teacher during the current school year, including classroom visits.