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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

author: Myra Louise Miller, Ned Levine, Terry Baldus, Robert Gutzman, Jim Bruggeman
submitter: KEYSTONE: A Rural Regional Training Program for Excellence in Science and Technology
published: 02/03/1998
posted to site: 02/03/1998
The K-8 Keystone Project's 1996-97 Annual Progress Report
National Science Foundation Teacher Enhancement Award # ESI-9453162 Local Systemic Initiative

Myra Miller, Principal Investigator
Ned Levine, Terry Baldus, Robert Gutzman, Jim Bruggeman Co-Principal Investigators

Part I. Annual Overview

The Keystone Project is a five year K-8 science and technology rural regional teacher enhancement program that provides support to science and technology reform efforts of twenty-one school districts. Our consortium consists of twenty-one school districts (one teacher districts, reservation districts, and large districts such as Bozeman).

One result of our project will be to create an appropriate training design to meet the contextual uniqueness of these Montana schools, yet be universal enough to serve as the state-wide model for rural cooperative teacher inservice programs. Our five major goals are: 1) disseminate nationally recognized classroom practices which embody the principles for science and technology teaching with mathematics support, 2) address gender equity, 3) address the needs of Native Americans, 4) address the needs of the rural educator, and 5) create a model training program which is to be offered for replication throughout the state in years 4-5, and subsequently be used as the blueprint for a national model of school based reform.

The name "Keystone" is not an acronym; it is a metaphor for the most important effort we can make, the creation of a functional, powerful support system between the intellectual efforts of well-meaning adults and the child in the classroom. The keystone completes the universal support structure, the arch. We support things with an arch-things like bridges, cathedral ceilings, and aqueducts. We also suspend and display impressive and expressive things from arches in places we could not otherwise reach.

In our efforts, knowledge is not viewed as being transmitted; but rather understanding comes only when students can tie new information to the knowledge they already understand. This paradigm shift requires changes in the way students are taught and the material used to instruct them. Students learn best when involved in problems which interest them and which have many solutions or methods of attack. The potential rewards for students are great when an integrative, constructivist science program of experiential learning promotes intellectual improvement. For some, these experiences will be the key to lifelong learning or economic involvement with science.

Since our project holds the belief that true and lasting systemic change in education begins with addressing the interaction between student and teacher in every classroom, the key to reform therefore is changing behaviors within the teacher. Improving the teacher's attitudes, abilities, and confidence will certainly improve the overall learning environment. Although the need for reform is global in scope, change is a highly personal experience. Its success depends on the appropriateness of timing, location and relevancy. Therefore, Keystone's efforts support a rural collaborative training program which provides mentor coaching, material support, and networking with scientists and other educators to combat isolation, lack materials, and lack of professional support that is typical in the rural educational scene. Awakening, engaging, and empowering the professional staff (teachers and administrators) is the key to the change we seek.

Keystone has a very strong mentor teacher leader infrastructure since our initial plans of beginning the project in summer of1995 with a large summer institute for participants was delayed until the following summer due to funding; thereby, allowing the main focus for the first year to be the mentor leader staff development component. As the project expanded each year to include more of the five hundred and twenty-seven teachers into schools geographically spread over several hundred miles, this focus on leadership has been invaluable in our assisting districts that are at different stages of science planning.

In collaboration with mentor leaders, scientists, businesses, consultants, community organizations, individuals, other educational institutions, and other currently funded NSF initiatives, Keystone provided eleven summer, and three mentor leader staff development experiences as well as many workshops supported through the individual school's mini-grant funding. Individual schools were assisted in revising existing plans or in developing new self-sustaining strategic science and technology plans. In addition, we shared our model for the perusal of several other projects and schools.

At this time we have in place a mentor and telecommunications (learning circles) network which supports our efforts to provide institutes, and strategic planning. Due to the multiple entry points into the project for schools, not all mentor leaders were chosen at the same time; however, now all but one school have identified mentor leaders. Likewise, all schools except the one with the unidentified mentor and one middle school have had active participation in Keystone summer institutes as well as the mini-grant offerings in their schools.

Institutes and follow-up contacts which prepare mentors to address cognitive skills, inquiry, pedagogy, coaching, change, and teleconferencing have been taking place since October, 1995 and will continue throughout the life of the grant. Over the last two years, mentors have had 204hours of the promised 180 hours of inservice, part of this training was a 3 graduate credit course on action research. Other participants (teachers, principals) had had the opportunity to attend more than 160 hours of offerings. Not every participant has taken every workshop or institute; however, most teachers are well on their way to meeting the 100 hour goal.

Since the creation of a fully functioning science and technology material and staff development center, its materials and services have continued to expand and to include more and more of the project schools. Now that the grant is in full swing, the center is used by many teachers, parents, and students. It is a research haven for some students who are working on Science Olympiad and other projects. It is heartening to have this increase in demand, but we are now stretched to the maximum capacity of our materials and will have to seek other funding sources for the needed materials.

Now that all the schools have officially become an active part of the project, our next task is to provide one more entry level summer institute to service the participants that have not been able to attend this session as yet, and to do another set of the Birch Creek and Choteau second level institutes; however, our major tasks will be address the more specific needs that have been gleaned from the strategic science and technology plans as well disseminate the model to other rural schools through local, state, and national conferences.

The major lessons learned: 1) Trainers also need new knowledge and skills, the Exploratorium gave us a new method of showing inquiry strategies (Thanks for providing cross project sharing.) 2) Success makes news travel faster, many schools outside of the project are requesting to become partners. 3) Material resources continue to be an issue since supplying over a long distance is difficult. 4) Teachers are curious and will run with an idea if barriers are not too great. 5) Change happens over time for some it happens more quickly. 6) It is difficult to stay focused on science reform when school closure is a possible fact of life.

Although inquiry is critical to the change that we seek, we need to also recognize that good teaching comes in other guises; and that one of our greatest assets for success is people. Keystone is fortunate to have many note worthy participants: Burning for Questions Buchanan, fifth grader, Rachel Piazza, the center of gravity expert, Anderson teachers: the Vitual Technologies Excellence in Education award winners, two National Excellence award winners-one science and one math, an administrator with the Outstanding Graduate Student Award, schools, a museum and a university committed to supporting educational reform, the national Science Technology award to Walt the Classroom Science Magician, Jan the National Distinguished Principal award, Marilyn the Principal of the Year, Nicki and Rick: the Golden Apple Award, Ned a Fellow of National Institute for Science Education, and the many unsung heroes of the classroom.