Annual Report Overviews
Keystone Annual Overview
The Keystone Project is a five year science and technology rural regional staff development program that provides support for teachers in the reform efforts for excellence in science and technology. The Keystone Project's foundation:
Students learn best when involved in problems which interest them and which have many solutions or methods of attack. Knowledge is not viewed as being transmitted; but rather understanding comes only when students can tie new information to the knowledge they already understand. In many science and technology classrooms today, the former is the practice while reformers are advocating the latter. We recognize the teacher is the key to true reform which will provide the bridge to the classroom and the future; therefore, the Keystone Project is providing participating teachers with ideas, materials, and financial backing at the classroom level. Awakening, engaging, and empowering the professional staff (teachers and administrators) is the key to the change.
To accomplish our goal, the Keystone Project has established a school based K-8 teacher enhancement program for science and technology education. A consortium of twenty-one school districts (one teacher districts, reservation districts, and larger districts such as Bozeman) in collaboration with scientists, businesses, consultants, community organizations, individuals, other educational institutions, and other currently funded NSF initiatives provide staff development, and help individual schools develop and implement a self-sustaining strategic science and technology plan as well as provide a model for replication by other rural districts.
Major Project Goals: 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 may 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.
Other Project Goals: 1) provide staff development to all teachers as individual school plans are implemented, 2) establish the processes to support the school*s effort for reform, 3) provide follow-up activities for teachers who have participated in summer institutes, 4) form partnerships between schools and consortia of schools, and 5) establish and maintain local professional networks of educators, scientists, and community members to provide a forum for interaction and exchange of information on advances in content and pedagogy.
Summary of major activities and accomplishments
There are three main groups that receive professional development : 1) mentor leaders: more experienced cadre and school level mentors, 2) teacher and administrator participants, and 3) school staff in site-based strategic science and technology plan efforts which are funded through a mini-grant structure . For each group, there are several strands or levels of activities provided through various avenues such as summer institutes, school year workshops, collaborative partners workshops, individual kit explorations and content sessions, advisory capacity of the Science and Technology Resource Center, Family Science and Family Math evenings, national and state science conferences, reflective best practice sessions, and field experiences with content experts. We also provide our scientist and other expert collaborators with activities and materials needed to present the kit based explorations with the mentor teacher.
In 1999, we provided 4 of our 5 levels of institutes and two mentor workshops. The summer institutes were: 1) Level 1: an introductory week-long experience (for classroom teachers, administrators, and mentor teachers) where each participant received 50 hours of staff development related to the project goals and objectives with 39 participants attending, 2) Level 2: four 25 hour (3 day) content based field experiences (life sciences and paleontology/geolgy) with 69 individuals, and 3) Levels 4 and 5: 2 different graduate level experiences in exploring standards-based inquiry through questioning and integration with 137 participants attending in professional development teams which will provide district support in staff development. Mentor sessions provided the background and training needed to promote the mentors leadership abilities and their capacity to support other classroom teachers.
Our project has accomplished the task creating a very knowledgeable and capable cadre of mentor teacher leades who can do kit presentations as well as help organize and implement more complex institute offerings. We also have regional leadership centers in two strategically placed locations, and a third center is being enhanced. These centers are to support the districts who have less capacity due to size or availability of resources. Other things that are working well: mini-grant supported site-based staff development, strategic science planning, focus on reflective best practice, and institutes that provide a variety of options such as field experience, pedagogy, content, graduate college credit, kit explorations, scientist participation, and the standards.
About 76% of the participating teachers indicated that they are using hands-on science either often or for almost all of their science lessons. 20 of the project*s school districts are either currently using Keystone science kits or have access to kits through other sources (purchasing their own, borrowing from count office, or Tribal Colleges). According to the Keystone administered evaluation feedback, participants view Keystone staff development as very positive and a great influence on their content and classroom instructional practices. The project is perceived to be an excellent means to connect isolated teachers in our remote areas to resources as well as to collaborative partners in larger schools.