This Local Systemic Change project is a partnership involving 7 school districts in collaboration with scientists and science educators from the University of Rhode Island. The project offers high quality professional development to over 500 teachers, grades K-8, in 51 schools.
Kindergarten teachers will be among these participants. Inquiry-based kits from well-established curriculum projects, FOSS and STC, are being implementated in grades K-6. The science kits are delivered to teachers and refurbished by the regional East Bay Materials Resource Center used by another LSC, the KITES project. The extension of an inquiry-based, hands-on science curriculum to grades 7 and 8 is a project that is underway in partnership with high school science department chairs and middle school science teachers. The middle school curriculum changes will be led by a group of 10 middle school science teachers exploring the extension of the common science curriculum into grades 7 and 8, with SEPUP and Event-Based Science instructional materials as well as PASCO Probes being considered for implementation. Over 50 science mentors recruited from the university science and engineering faculty and the private sector. These science mentors partner with project teachers by attending basic kit training, advising teachers and students on science content or process questions via e-mail and classroom visits, and, in some cases, co-facilitating science content sessions related to various kit topics. The project also has a significant impact on elementary and secondary teacher preparation as materials and curriculum used with the preservice teachers will be adapted for use in science methods courses. Student teachers participate in project classrooms and attend the project's professional development sessions.
Computers and connections are available in all seven districts to facilitate networking with "GEMS-NET Central," science mentors, and among fellow teachers. GEMS-NET is coordinated with a statewide Rhode Island TEachers in Technology project and is training teachers to maintain the project website and locate valuable internet resources for teachers and children. GEMS-NET is funded at $1.4 million for 5 years.