Annual Report Overviews
Annual Report Overview
Part I ANNUAL OVERVIEW
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:
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: