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Annual Report Overviews


Partnership for Inquiry-Based Science Annual Overview

submitter: Partnership for Inquiry-Based Science
published: 12/09/1999
posted to site: 12/10/1999
Partnership for Inquiry-based Science Program K-5
funded by the National Science Foundation Grant Number EIS-9554605

Annual Overview

The Seattle Local Systemic Change Program is a partnership with the University of Washington's Department of Molecular Biotechnology, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and The Boeing Company to support the implementation of an inquiry-based science program in all schools with elementary students. The Leadership Team guides the program development and is composed of representatives from each of the partner organizations, administrators, the PTA Council president, and a member of the Alliance for Education.

The Seattle School District is urban and multi-ethnic. To date there are 1010 grade-level classroom teachers and 23,566 students in 71 elementary schools. Almost 50% of the student population are on free or reduced lunch. Community activism and stewardship contribute to a very unusually supportive relationship between the school system and the community. Former Superintendent John Stanford capitalized on those characteristics and strengthened the relationship.

Mr. Stanford lost his battle with leukemia the day after Thanksgiving 1998. The whole city of Seattle stopped with teary eyes to pay tribute to this powerful leader who had touched so many lives with hope and promise. We have adopted a statement he made last fall as a slogan for our program - "Science on My Mind".

As Mr. Stanford would have had it, Joseph Olchefske made a smooth transition from Acting Superintendent to becoming Superintendent. Five months after taking the position, Mr. Olchefske hired Dr. June Rimmer as Chief Academic Officer, a position that had been vacant for two years.

Our Partnership for Inquiry-based Science commenced in the summer of 1996 with two pilot schools and seventeen new schools. Ten schools joined in the second year, and ten more joined in the third year. In the summer of 1999, seventeen schools came on board. This totals 56 schools. The following five goals of this grant provide support for teachers to deliver effective science instruction to elementary students:

  • Summer and Fall Science Institutes on unit implementation, pedagogy and content as well as classes throughout the school year
  • School-based professional development and support based on school or individual teacher needs as they relate to the project
  • Materials support, analysis, and refurbishment provided by a materials supervisor, a volunteer scientist along with other volunteers at the District Science Materials Center
  • Scientist and University support focused on the Science Content Courses
  • Other University support focused on family awareness and family celebrations


  • In our fourth year of five, approximately 89% of the teachers from 79% of the schools are participating in our project.
  • We have conducted 3 principal workshops with a total of 49 principals attending.
  • Many of the schools have formed focus groups to forge a greater school-based reform effort. Some schools accomplish this through their Leadership Teams.
  • Science Resource Teachers have utilized facilitative leadership skills to assist schools with the development of school-wide improvement plans.
  • The Materials Center has an excellent record of delivering the kits on time and is very "teacher friendly".
  • Family and community science literacy experiences are provided through funding from the University of Washington.
  • Family Science Programs have been provided at the Woodland Park Zoo in May 1998 & 1999 for schools with a high level of children living in poverty.
  • Dr. Ben Sayler of the Department of Molecular Biotechnology continued commendable efforts in developing and refining Science Content Courses and as the contact person for scientists..
  • The Physics Education Group of the Physics Department at the University of Washington has contributed 2000 hours to date in the development of the Science Concept Courses and has helped to recruit scientists for teaching these courses.
  • Through the University of Washington's Physics Education Group, Dr. Lillian McDermott continued to provide five graduate credits of professional development with tuition waived for lead and resource teachers.
  • Dr. Ellen Wijsman from the Department of Biostatistics and Division of Medical Genetics at the University of Washington has developed a useful statistics and science course to explore and clarify the uses of various graphing styles in the context of the specific data analysis activities designed for each kit.
  • A Science Notebook class has been developed to help foster development of written communication skills. It is through the use of these skills that students can increase their understanding of the science concepts they are investigating.
  • The Lead Teacher Program has been further developed and more teachers have been recruited.
  • Lead and Science Resource Teachers participated in professional development with Larry Lowery, the Susan Loucks-Horsley Group, Mark St. John, Bruce Wellman, Bob Garmston, Jay McTighe, and the UW Physics Education Group.
  • The Annual Retreat attracted more than fifty District and community members to discuss issues and challenges of sustainability.
  • University of Washington's President, Dick McCormick, held a reception at his home to celebrate the NSF-funded mathematics and science projects in Seattle and five surrounding districts.
  • For the third year, the Alliance for Education has coordinated business and industry funding to provide unit-related field trips for all children in the program.
  • A collaboration with the Middle School Science Systemic Change Partnership LSC is beginning to grow and provide substantial support for our efforts.