Part I. Annual Overview
The Guiding Education in Math & Science Network (GEMS-NET) project involves a partnership among K-8 teachers from seven Rhode Island school districts and 63 scientists and science educators from the University of Rhode Island. GEMS-NET, which began with funding from local school districts and Eisenhower Higher Education funds in October 1996, became a Local Systemic Change on May 1, 1998. The project provides professional development in science content, pedagogy, and appropriate embedded assessment methodology for all 424 1-6 teachers, 53 kindergarten teacher science leaders from seven districts as well as 21 elementary (1-6) science teachers in a seventh district. The project is working with 31 science teachers (7th and 8th grade) in five of the partner districts. Additionally, the professional development sessions include 18 special education resource teachers and 55 preservice teachers from URIs elementary teacher education program. All 79 elementary student teachers receive instruction in inquiry methods and using quality kit materials in their science methods course.
The primary objectives of GEMS-NET are to:
- provide high quality professional development in science content, pedagogical, and assessment knowledge of 529 K-8 teachers who serve over 17,000 children in 51 Rhode Island schools,
- develop the science content and leadership skills of a cadre of 40 teacher trainer/leaders and Teachers-In-Residence who can continue to serve the districts beyond the life of the grant,
- provide classroom level assistance through classroom coaching and internet-based trouble shooting,
- train teachers to utilize exemplary inquiry-based, hands-on science kits/materials in delivering a core science curriculum which is aligned with national science reform initiatives,
- incorporate the use of inquiry pedagogy and kit-based science teaching in the curriculum for all (approximately 140) URI elementary preservice teachers,
- build communities of learners with K-8 teachers, elementary preservice teachers, science educators, and scientists from URI and science related industries to foster reflection on science teaching practice,
- enable scientists and teachers to incorporate connections between kits and Rhode Island ecosystems and science related industry as well as to examine interconnections among branches of science and across grade level kits,
- enable scientists to establish teacher connections aimed at keeping 7-8 science content current,
- develop a series of kit-based performance assessments to gauge childrens attainment of benchmarks related to science content and process as outlined by the RI Science Framework (based on the 2061 Benchmarks), NSES Standards, and NCEE New Standards,
- establish the mechanisms to maintain science materials through a partnership between teachers, districts and the NSF funded, East Bay Materials Resource Center, and
- establish a sustainable framework for science education reform.
Major Accomplishments to date:
- Provided 907 hours of professional development in science curriculum, basic science kit training, science content and leadership in the first 20 months of funding. With our previous professional development efforts under an Eisenhower grant, the total hours of programming has reached 1198 hours or over 15,000 teacher hours of workhops/courses. The NSF funding sponsored 75 release-day sessions, 22 Summer Institutes, four semester courses, and a Middle School Science Summit.
- Included an additional 140 teachers (83 1-6 classroom, 32 kindergarten, 1 elementary science specialist, 24 grade 7/8) in the 100-hour professional development project.
- Presented workshops/courses which introduced teachers to the FOSS, STC & INSIGHT science kits being implemented in grade K-6, developed leadership skills of trainers, explored the science content of kits, and developed performance assessments for 6 kits.
- Continued training teachers so that ALL teachers in grades 1-6 will use three (3) kits in their classrooms this year. All kindergarten teachers will use two (2) kits this year. This training will enable teachers to use 1199 kits this year, up from 783 kit uses last year.
- Introduced 7th /8th grade teachers to inquiry-based middle school science materials including Event Based Science, Toxic Waste (SEPUPS) and PASCO probes.
- Provided kit orientation and inquiry-based science methods instruction for all URI's elementary teacher education students.
- Included 55 student teachers in kit training sessions.
- Recruited 63 scientists/engineers from the University of Rhode Island, environmental organizations, and private industry, who have devoted a combined total of 1110 hours to assist teachers and students in developing greater science content knowledge related to kits.
- Organized a Scientist-Teacher Alliance workshop (designed by the American Physical Society) that introduced 31 scientists from the GEMS-NET and KITES project to effective ways to work with teachers.
- Developed a 22-page GEMS-NET website as a resource to GEMS-NET teachers.
- Programmed a FileMaker Pro database to maintain GEMS-Net training and kit records.
- Worked with five Teachers-in-Residence to assist all aspects of training and teacher support.
- Met monthly to plan upcoming events with the Steering Committee comprised of 2-3 teachers from each district and the GEMS-NET PI's and staff.
- Secured the continued support of 7 GEMS-NET superintendents to purchase science kits, pay for kit refurbishing, to release teachers for 7 school-day workshops over the five year of the grant, to pay part of cost of replacing Teachers-in-Residence, and to pay half of the substitute costs to replace teachers in training.
- Documented over $236,350 in district cost share.
- Worked with the GEMS-NET superintendents and the KITES project staff to secure state funding for the Material Resource Center.
- Assisted in extending high quality science training opportunities to other Rhode Island school districts through the LASER Partnership (sponsored by NSRC through KITES-LSC).
- Hired and organized a GEMS-NET Central staff to be responsive to teacher needs.
- Collaborated with other science education providers to extend the menu of science professional development for teachers.
- Recruited and trained parent volunteers to help teachers with kit inventory and set up.
- Designed Narragansett Bay data/maps unit for a local application of Ecosystems kit.