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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

submitter: E=MC2
published: 02/26/1998
posted to site: 02/26/1998


This project, which began July 1, 1996, is about changing the way K-6 school children learn science. When this staff development initiative is completed, every K-6 classroom teacher, special education teacher, media specialist, computer teacher, elementary school principal, and assistant principal in our consortium of three New Jersey school districts (Ewing, Lawrence, and West Windsor-Plainsboro) will be implementing an inquiry approach to the teaching of elementary science.

The E=MC2 project is organized to support the teachers from three districts as they employ inquiry-based science. The focus of the project is the development of a training program to support an inquiry-based curriculum using materials that have been identified as exemplary by the National Science Foundation. A science materials center has been established to organize and maintain these materials. Key project personnel include a full-time coordinator and the three principal investigators. This program is supported at each site by a building coordinator and a cadre of mentors responsible for peer coaching. This fundamental change effort will come through the following five key professional development components over a four-and-a-half year period:

  • intensive teacher training through summer institutes, providing 60 hours of instruction for each teacher over two years,

  • specific training in the use of kits through hands-on experience,

  • participation in regularly scheduled support/share groups at each site, mentoring/coaching throughout the school year, and

  • dedication of 1/2 in-service day each year to inquiry-based methodology and improving content knowledge.

Summary of Accomplishments

Support for science reform comes from the districts' governing boards and their partners in the science community. Both the local districts and the scientific community have devoted substantial resources in professional services, materials, and financial support. The three districts have worked closely with Building Bridges to the Future, a partnership between the districts, corporations, universities, and science organizations. This partnership has recently been recognized with two major awards. The first one was the New Jersey Association of School Administrators Exemplary Program Award for school partnership programs. The second was the Pre-college Education Winning Program Award given by the Industrial Research Institute. One of the major accomplishments has been the high level of support that has been generated among teachers. This is no small achievement since it is a consequence of the activities described below and has a synergistic relationship with them. One program component that has had a direct bearing on staff buy-in has been the appointment of building coordinators and mentors in each school. These individuals serve as liaisons between the grant administrators and the teaching staff so that staff has an accessible channel through which they can communicate problems and successes. Concerns about missing materials, scheduling of materials, or technical problems with kit implementation are quickly communicated and promptly addressed.

Thus, teachers are experiencing an unprecedented level of support. Another area that has contributed to this high level of support has been the development of a science materials center called Science To Go, located at the Roebling Invention Factory in Trenton, NJ. This center, which opened in September 1996, has established a kit refurbishment and support program. It has also added materials to kits at the request of staff and prepared some materials for use in order to reduce teacher preparation time. If materials were missing or broken, Science To Go replaced them within a 24 to 48 hour period. Such support was greatly appreciated by teachers and has contributed to their enthusiastic support for the program. This support was further enhanced by the development of a highly inclusionary process for the adoption of inquiry-based materials. Teachers played a significant role in devising selection criteria as well as in identifying kits to be piloted. Over 70 teachers in the project piloted new kits in 1995-1996 and over 85 piloted kits in 1996-1997. As a result of the pilots, kits have been adopted and are being phased in according to a schedule at each grade level. Additional pilots are being organized for the 1997-98 school year. The involvement of so many teachers in the adoption of inquiry-based materials would not be possible without significant in-service. Professional development activities began during the summer of 1996, and have included the following:

  • five day summer institutes dealing with inquiry learning that were conducted in July 1996 and July 1997;

  • a five-day summer institute dealing with assessment and the applications of technology to science instruction was conducted in July 1997;

  • selection and training of teachers from the three districts to conduct summer institutes beginning in July 1997;

  • kit specific workshops that were provided for all teachers involved in the implementation of new kits;

  • follow-up kit workshops that provided teachers with background information on the kits they were implementing.

  • Kit selection must be aligned with the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards in Science that were adopted in May 1996.

  • Pacing of kit selection needs to be responsive to both teachers' needs and the demands of state standards at each grade level.

  • Teachers need guidance during the transition years to phase in the newly adopted kits and gradually omit topics from the previous curriculum.