95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 42-6 - GK-12 at a biological field station: Infusing ecology into rural Michigan schools

Thursday, August 5, 2010: 9:50 AM
315-316, David L Lawrence Convention Center
G. Philip Robertson, Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, Thomas Getty, Dept. of Zoology and Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI, Charles W. Anderson, College of Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI and Robin Tinghitella, WK Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI

The GK-12 program at the Kellogg Biological Station teams graduate students pursuing degrees in ecology with K-12 science teachers in nearby rural districts. The program aims to provide students the opportunity to improve their teaching and communication skills at the same time it provides teachers the opportunity to enrich K-12 science instruction. The major elements of the KBS program are: 1) Classroom partnerships in which a fellow works with one or more teachers in their classrooms 10-12 hours per week. Fellows co-teach and help teachers introduce inquiry activities related to ecological literacy into their classrooms and districts. 2) A one week summer teaching institute for fellows and teachers, led by MSU College of Education faculty, focuses on inquiry-based approaches to learning for understanding and educational leadership. And 3) school-year workshops comprised of science inquiry and teaching components designed to support classroom efforts to incorporate inquiry-based learning in K-12 science teaching.

The program brings together MSU science and education faculty committed to furthering graduate and K-12 education; K-12 teachers committed to changing the way they teach science; graduate students interested in furthering their teaching knowledge and skills; and district administrators interested in improving science teaching in their districts. Evaluation is conducted by an external evaluator who surveys participants at every opportunity, and provides the data needed to guide formative assessments.Results/Conclusions

Sustaining elements of the GK-12 experience past the lifespan of an award is challenging. At KBS we have placed GK-12 under the umbrella of a broader but lightly funded K-12 Partnership for Science Literacy. This 1996 partnership persists with minor funding for school year workshops, which ensure that teachers remain engaged through periods when resources are not available to support classroom activities. Institutionalizing this larger, inexpensive partnership has been one key to program persistence. Changing graduate student attitudes about engaging non-scientists in science has been another. Anecdotes suggest a cultural shift that will last well beyond the life of the award – even non-GK-12 students seek opportunities to engage the public in ways that did not happen prior to the award. And a final key has been ensuring that building administrators see GK-12 activities’ contributing to science learning goals in their schools. This keeps them open and eager to participate in new initiatives as they become available. And especially in these times, it is new initiatives that will bring in the funding to keep program benefits available for new cohorts of students.