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Annual Report: West Virginia - Handle On Science 2001-2002

submitter: WV-Handle on Science
published: 2002
posted to site: 12/12/2002

Annual Report for Award #9731412
West Virginia - Handle On Science
November 1, 2001-October 31, 2002

Participant Individuals:
    PI: Dr. H.A. Cook
    Co-PI:_Bonnie Mueller, Robert E. Strong, Nick Zervos, Earl Nicodemus, and Elizabeth Strong
Partner Organizations:
    Northern Regional Consortium for Science, Mathematics, and Technology, Bayer Corporation, PPG Industries, Analytical Chemists Society of Pittsburgh, RESA-6, Oglebay Good Zoo, Henry Stifel Schrader Environmental Education Center.

Other Collaborators:

A Math/Science Partnership proposal was submitted this year to NSF utilizing lessons learned from the WV-Handle On Science Project and Project CATS as well as other NSF initiatives in West Virginia. WV-Handle On Science contributed information to the planning of the project. The leadership of West Virginia's state science coordinator has given invaluable assistance to the WV-Handle On Science Project and the other NSF initiatives in WV. Through these initiatives, WV-Handle On Science is learning and sharing new ideas. Three of WV-Handle On Science project's staff participate in the Project MERIT advisory board.

An expansion project, WV Reach Out, has been funded as a pilot Local Systemic Change project to provide leadership and science content enhancement and materials for sixteen seventh and eighth grade science teachers from seven West Virginia counties. This project will utilize distance learning technologies (asynchronous transfer mode) and provide curriculum kits for teachers to pilot in the classroom. WV-Handle On Science staff served on the writing team for the proposal and on the advisory board.

Strong linkages continue between the Materials and Methods for Elementary Science course at West Liberty State College and the WV-Handle On Science Project. The instructor for the course is utilizing the project's pedagogy and instructional materials to teach the course. The new instructor is a WV-Handle On Science Project Mentor, a Project CATS leader, and WV-HOS classroom observer. Students from the course are required to fulfill volunteer hours in the WV-Handle On Science Materials Center and are performing internships with many of the project's teachers one day per week. Teachers have commented that the preservice teachers now are more comfortable and competent teaching science and are familiar with the methods used in the curriculum materials. The "science phobia" that was prevalent seems to be subsiding.

The project has also participated in the statewide WV: IMPACT project, emphasizing linkages between higher education and the public schools. As a partner in one of the WV IMPACT projects, WV-Handle On Science staff participated in a parent and student reading and science integration night this fall (2002).

Information regarding WV-Handle On Science was shared at the regional NSTA conferences in Columbus, OH and in Louisville, KY and at the West Virginia Science Teachers Association Conference in Charleston, WV.

Collaboration with RESA-6 provided a substitute teacher workshop in February 2002 for thirteen of the five county school systems' substitute teachers. This workshop included several of the activities used in WV-Handle On Science Summer Institutes. The session was highly rated. Participants requested future sessions.


  • November 2001 through spring 2002 workshops exposed 49 teachers to the pedagogy and curriculum of the WV-Handle On Science Project during school year sessions.

  • Bayer Corporation plant manager for the New Martinsville site places commentary in local paper highlighting ASSET, Inc. and WV-Handle On Science in December 2001.

  • County contacts (20) attend a luncheon to learn project evaluation updates and information in December 2001.

  • Follow-up sessions in Fall 2001 involved 90 teachers

  • Several additional project schools receive grant money to provide additional science outreach activities (summer schools, parent nights, outdoor classrooms)

  • WV- Handle On Science Project showcased at WV Higher Education Symposium, Project CATS/MERIT advisory meeting, and WV IMPACT conferences

  • Roundtable Discussion Group sessions in Fall 2001, Spring 2002, and September-October, 2002 involved over 145 teachers

  • Free Science Shows are scheduled for 13 of 45 schools (100% summer participation for school's teachers)

  • The equivalent of two full time Science Resource Teachers work with project teachers

  • Northern Regional Consortium steering committee receives continuous WV-Handle On Science updates

  • Project staff participate in Virtual Conference on sustainability of Local Systemic Change in spring 2002

  • Seventh and eighth grade level pilot Local Systemic Change proposal funded to expand WV-Handle On Science Project

  • Workshops begin with Pendleton County in February 2002 using ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) equipment and WV-Handle On Science program (delayed due to equipment trouble). Microworlds kit is highlighted. Five teachers participated.

  • Principals' workshop in April 2002 involves seventeen principals (several new to program) in a one-half day session focusing on process skills and project information

  • Two lead teacher/project mentor full day sessions are held on March 2 and 9, 2002 focusing on leadership (using ideas from Project MERIT and Building Leadership Capacity in the Schools) and on a full inquiry (from shadows investigation at Exporatorium Institute for Inquiry)

  • One lead teacher/project mentor session was three hours in length and provided leadership information and activities in May 2002.

  • 255 teachers attend the fourth phase of project professional development in July and August of 2002. These two-day sessions focus on science process skills, kit training, and content.

  • 136 teachers attend the fifth phase of the project professional development in June and July 2002. This session focused on grade level sharing of integration and extension ideas, across grade level sharing, and multi-grade content enhancement. The New Science Literacy was used to show literacy and science connections.

  • Additional professional development is offered through the Environmental Workshop held at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Industries outdoor environmental site and through the geography and science integration workshop called CONNECTS (Eisenhower Higher Education grant). 65 teachers participated.

  • Fall 2002 professional development highlighting the fourth kit training involves 142 teachers K-6 in two day session

  • All 45 schools are currently utilizing the WV-Handle On Science Program, with the majority of the teachers having completed at least four phases of the professional development program

  • 880 kits are sent from Materials Center in Spring 2002(rotations 3 &4), 529 are sent Rotation 1, 2002, and 501 are sent Rotation 2, 2002 (these numbers do not reflect multiple kits sent for teachers with multiple classes)



Since the science instructional materials adoption of 2000, the accelerated professional development has had mixed results. Sessions for the final wave of teachers have been mandated during school time if they have not attended in summer. The county school systems provide release time with substitutes for the remaining teachers to receive this mandated professional development. The WV-Handle On Science curriculum matrix is (until at least 2007) the five counties' adopted science program.

As of August 31, 2002, the majority (72%) of the teachers have received over 100 hours of professional development. The large number of participants in the third cohort has caused logistical problems within the project and forced quicker implementation than was originally planned. There is a degree of resentment on the part of some teachers who are now forced to attend, and there are some who are participating only because they are now mandated. This resentment shows in responses to questionnaires and in interviews. During the fall 2001 professional development sequence, some teachers stated that the sessions were "a waste of time" to their principal who in turn took the comments at face value. These two principals were marginal in their support of the program already, and this made matters even more difficult. Fortunately, the teachers attended summer sessions this year and have softened in their outlook considerably. These teachers did not enjoy the animal-related units, but when another unit was highlighted became much more enthusiastic. This case seems to bear out individual concerns more than project session quality.

More frequent visits to teachers' classrooms on a scheduled basis are occurring now than at the project's beginning. Teachers who are new participants will be visited to assist with implementation. Many retirees and new teachers are also hurdles for the program. Grade level changes continue at the present time as do school closings and potential closings. Many of the project's original teachers do not remain where they were at the project's start, and many have moved or retired (or succumbed to a reduction in force). The population of the area continues to decrease, necessitating reduction in force and in school closings.

Teachers assume greater leadership roles now in the project (leading sessions at roundtables, conferences, share-a-thons, etc). Additional sessions for lead teachers and project mentors with increased emphasis on leadership and on inquiry occurred in winter 2001-2. Resources such as Building Leadership Capacity in the Schools were used. Teachers also designed a mini-inquiry based on the Shadows investigation at the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry. One of the least influenced aspects of classroom teaching since the genesis of the program is the addition of student designed investigation in the classroom. Project staff designed the lead teacher and project mentor workshop with this need in mind. The shadow investigation enhanced the understanding of what student designed investigations should look like in the classroom. Plans are to utilize this activity with a larger audience (perhaps at a future workshop).

We have learned that a supportive principal can have a tremendous influence on the climate of school-wide science reform. We have also found that teachers who have grown comfortable enough to serve as mentors for new teachers have enhanced the project's effectiveness. We plan to formalize this mentoring as the award period draws to an end (fall 2003) for the purpose of sustainability.