For 10 middle school teachers, their summer vacation included a bit of a role-reversal – four weeks as a student at The Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers at University of the Sciences. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, The Summer Institute utilizes the University’s resources and expertise to support the professional development of middle grade science teachers and enhance the classroom experience of Philadelphia’s students.
“This has been an exciting Summer Institute as both the university faculty and the school district teachers have been energized,” said Dr. Lois H. Peck, EdD, director of the science teacher certification program. “The teachers worked collaboratively with each other and our faculty on techniques to incorporate hands-on, minds-on activities that will motivate their students. We are fortunate to receive funding that affords us the opportunity to make a difference in the quality of science teaching in the middle schools of Philadelphia
The teachers, who represented nine different schools, attended all-day sessions that exposed them to a unique, integrated curriculum of life sciences, earth science, chemistry, and mathematics. Working in lecture and laboratory settings, the teachers were given a better understanding of national standards for content, inquiry-based science and math, and how to design evidence-based classroom demonstrations that will peak students interest.
One such experiment, which truly had the teachers giddy with excitement, involved a bit of chemistry and a lot of sugar. Teachers gathered into teams to explore the principles behind making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Once their favorite toppings from Oreos® and M&M’s® to peanut butter sauce and hot fudge were added to the sugar and cream, the teachers watched the transformation of molecules from liquid state to solid matter. After tasting their creations, the teachers were then provided instructions on how to recreate this experiment in their own classrooms.
“The Summer Institute is a great way to reinforce our knowledge of the sciences,” said Charlene Jablow from Abigail Vare Elementary, “The instructors teach each concept as though we have no previous science knowledge, which allows for us to gain insight on presenting difficult concepts to our students.” Jablow, a 2nd year program attendee, returned to The Summer Institute with colleague, Denna Hewitt, a special education teacher. Hewitt, who admitted she was scared at the thought of four weeks of science, loved the experience and said she “couldn’t wait to come to class each day.” The pair attended in hopes of identifying new ways to teach science in tandem to special education students.
The Summer Institute for Middle Grade Science Teachers began on July 6 and finished on July 29. Under the leadership of Dr. Peck, the classes were taught by University of the Sciences' faculty members Dr. Catherine Bentzley, associate professor of chemistry; Catherine Burns Purzycki, lecturer of biology and microbiology; Dr. Michael Smith, adjunct instructor of earth science; and Amy Kimchuk, lecturer of mathematics.
In addition to teachers developing their content knowledge and enhancing their instructional methodologies; they are also given a personalized lab coat. The USciences teaching staff also provides resources and support for each teacher during the current school year, including classroom visits.