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Annual Report Overviews


NSSTEP Annual Overview

submitter: National School District Systemic Teacher Enhancement Project (NSSTE)
published: 04/13/2000
posted to site: 04/14/2000
The National School District in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego, the National City government, the community, institutions of higher education, business and industry initiated this local systemic change project to change science education in the National School District. The five-year project has three goals:

  1. To implement an inquiry oriented, activity based science curriculum, which articulates with the California Science framework, the California Implementation Network (CSIN), the California Advocacy for math and Science (CAMS), the State of California Science Content Standards and the national Standards in Science.

  2. To upgrade the science content background, pedagogy, technology utilization, language acquisition and leadership skills of the entire staff in the National School District.

  3. To initiate systemic reform through collaboration among students, education, parents, community and businesses resulting in shared decision-making and broad based systemic change.

    Year four of the NSSTEP project consisted of a summer program with two weeks of intensive classroom instruction and eight academic year follow-up meetings. In addition there were various activities which included seven three-day mini institutes, Science Discovery Days, Family Science nights, Intersession workshops, and District Science Days. The summer program focused on the use of instructional materials for hands-on activities, content update in the area of physical science and astronomy, extension to classroom activities for participant understanding and background, as well as field experiences.

    I. Professional Development

    It is estimated that 60 lead teachers participating in the summer and academic year programs for 1998-99 will have had over 200 hours of inservice during the four years of this project. Additional 125 teachers in the district have had over 100 hours of professional development during this time period. A total of 185 of the original 290 teachers responsible for teaching science have met or exceeded 100 hours of professional development in the district during the four years of this project. Approximately 67 teachers have had in excess of 60 hours of professional development. The remaining 38 staff members have had over 30 hours of inservice/staff development during the four years of the project. The project staff has organized three-day mini-institutes during year four of the project to provide additional staff development opportunities with the Master teachers and UCSD science faculty.

    Summer Academic Program - 1999

    The summer academic program was from June 24 - July 9, 1999, a period of two weeks of classroom instruction with science educators and Master teachers working collaboratively with forty five lead teachers from the school district with a follow-up science practicum. The instruction was under the guidance of Dr. Karen Ostlund, Prof. of Science Education, Univ. of Texas, Dr. Reinhard Flick, Research Associate, CCS Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dr. Kim Griest, Professor Physics, UCSD, Dr. Richards E. Rothschild, Sr. Research Physicist, CASS, UCSD, Dr. Michael J. Sailor, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UCSD, Dr. Chris Armour, MD, Ph.D., Dept of Biology, UCSD, Russ Hamm, Technology Consultant, Ted Godshalk, Consultant, State of California, and Master Teachers, Bonnie Styles, Gloria Gonzales, Joanne Williams and Margaret Godshalk.

    The concepts were in the area of Physical Science and Astronomy. The participants worked with FOSS curriculum materials as well as "A Child's Place in the Environment" and other ancillary curriculum materials. They also participated in field trips to the Paradise Creek, Stein Farm and the district Technology Center.

    The format of the summer academy called for a team consisting of a University science educator and Master Teachers to work with participants who were grouped according to grade levels, K-3 and 4-6. Time was devoted each day for the participants to investigate the classroom activities in the Physical Science, and Astronomy under study. There were follow-up activities and discussions with the university scientists and science educators in order to enhance concept development.

    Week One

    The overall themes were "the Ocean, The Solar system, and The Universe." The science activities emphasized that:

    • The sun, moon, and stars have properties, locations and movements that can be observed and described

    • The oceans of the world are affected by the sun, moon and solar system

    A typical daily schedule included: an opening discussion on the topics of the day followed by over two hours of hands-on science activities utilizing the FOSS kits and supplementary materials with a university science educator/master teacher teams. An open ended discussion period with a university scientist followed and an afternoon session with additional activities helped bring closure to the content/concepts covered in the morning. The K-3 group explored activities regarding the solar system and the concept of day and night. The 4-6 group conducted activities on the ocean and its properties as well as studies on the universe.

    Week Two

    The overall themes were matter, motion, light and energy. The science activities emphasized that:

    • Matter is a fundamental concept of physical science. Matter as characteristic properties

    • The motion of an object (matter) can be described by its position, direction of motion, and speed

    • Energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, sound and the nature of a chemical substance. Energy is transferred in many ways.

    • Light interacts with matter by transmission, absorption, and scattering (reflection)

    During week two, the K-3 group conducted activities on "Matter and Energy." The 4-6 group did activities on motion and light as well utilizing the FOSS kit "Ideas & Investigations." Field trips included visits to the Stein Farm and Paradise Creek where both groups did activities on physical science such as water testing. The teachers developed curriculum packets for the classroom. The participants also examined science software that the district has purchased and which will be available this school year. These included "Thinking Science" & "Sammy's Science House."

    Week Three

    During the week of the Practicum, the activities experienced during the two-week program were carried out in the classroom with the students during the morning session of summer school. Each afternoon was devoted to debriefing, peer coaching and preparation for the next morning class.

    Because more than half of the district is on a year-round school schedule, the forty-five lead teachers attended:

    1. an initial two week program followed by
    2. a one week participation in a Practicum during the summer program or academic year
    The lead teachers attended the Practicum based on their school academic year calendar. The program during the summer of 1999 consisted of a total of three weeks of professional development.

    Academic Year Programs 1998-1999

    Saturday, September 19, 1998, the participants utilized curriculum materials from the Life Lab curriculum to extend the FOSS curriculum and enhance the field studies at the Stein Farm.

    Saturday, September 26, 1998, The Polaroid Company cameras and film for visual learning in our environment. Participants used the cameras in obtaining graphic evidence of animate and inanimate objects in our environment.

    Saturday November 7, 1998, guest presenter Nancy Dollard provided a Project Wild curriculum manual for each participant and introduced the interdisciplinary, environmental conservative program emphasizing wild life.

    During November, seven two-day grade level workshops were held reviewing the previous years study in Life Sciences. Seven UCSD Science Faculty participated in these workshops.

    Saturday, December 5th, a science educator from NASA provided an overview of NASA programs and distributed materials to all of the participants. Arrangements were made for the speakers to hold a school assembly at 50% of the schools (5) in the week following the workshop.

    January 23rd, Nancy Dollard presented Project Aquatics to the participants. project Aquatics is an interdisciplinary, supplemental environmental conservation program emphasizing aquatics systems. All of the participants received a curriculum manual.

    February 20th, Nancy Dollard returned to present Project Learning Tree. Project Learning Tree is an interdisciplinary, supplemental environmental conservation program. The program emphasized training in the language arts and literacy to assist science teachers working with students who use English as their second language.

    On March 13th, the participants attended the San Diego Science Educators Association Annual Conference where over 1600 teachers attended science workshops all day.

    On May 1st, participants attended the San Diego Environmental Education Discovery Fair (S.E.E.D. Fair) at San Diego State University as a culmination of their studies of Life Science and the environment. Following the eight-session workshop, participants were required to submit their professional portfolios they have been working on through the academic year.

    II. Teacher Involvement

    A leadership cadre of 45 teachers attended the fourth year summer program, 8 academic year follow-up meetings and school and district inservice meetings. it is estimated that this leadership cadre has exceeded 200 hours of extensive teacher enhancement in science and technology since the onset of this project. These teachers are responsible for providing staff development/inservice to their peers at their grade level at their school site.

    These teachers form the science liaison for each site and meet during the academic year with the science resource teacher. Individual school implementation plans include the following:

    • Science literacy connection
    • Leadership activities
    • Parent involvement
    • School-wide events
    • District science day
    • Site participation at academic year follow-up meetings

    In addition to the above, all teachers in the district have the opportunity to participate in the seven fall and spring mini-institutes. These programs were held in November 98 and March 99.

    The district provided software/CD Roms per grade level (grades 3-6) beginning in 1997-98 with additional CD-Roms made available this past year for the 1999 summer programs.

    As a follow-up of the summer and academic year programs, teachers in the district participated in the garden-enhanced nutrition education grant program to develop individual student school gardens. The district has also been awarded a D.I.R.T. grant of $4,000 and a TAPP grant of $30,000. These funds are used to develop the curriculum for the Paradise Creek project and the Stein Farm. These sites serve as the outdoor life/environmental education facilities.

    The students together with the teachers at Kimball school developed a Wetland Calendar for the Paradise Creek project. This project involved the Civilian Corps who built the nursery and worked with teachers and students integrating science and literacy.

    The district offered three, two-day intersessions in the fall and spring to inservice teachers in the use of technology in the classroom utilizing science software. Additional technology training is planned.

    We are enclosing with this report copies of all activities that were conducted during the period of this annual report. They include:

    • The National School District Science Core Program
    • Science Goals 1998-99
    • The 1999 Summer Program NSSTEP schedule
    • Copies of all Professional Development opportunities in the district
    • Participant evaluation reports on the summer and academic year programs
    • Copies of the district Science Newsletter (National Science Connection)

    III. Project Sustainability and Support for Reform

    Because of the statewide emphasis on literacy, the district is utilizing science content and activities as a vehicle to increase reading and science scores. As a result of this emphasis, the district stanine scores have increased dramatically. The district has voluntarily arranged for two fifth grade classes in each school to participate in WestEd's science assessment program, which should further serve to validate the progress of this project.

    The leadership of the superintendent, Dr. George Cameron and the administrative council, consisting of the district assistant superintendents and school principals, continue to develop long term plans which include: weekly staff development programs, summer enrichment opportunities, a working farm, the maintenance of a materials resource center and a school community newsletter. These are some of the activities that guarantee a sustainable professional development reform effort.

    The community support for this project has been strong as evidenced by the commitment to maintain and operate the Stein Farm and the newly developed "Paradise Creek Educational Park" to enhance the life science and environmental studies component of the science curriculum. There is also extensive parental involvement as teacher aides/volunteers in the classroom and in Family Science Nights, Science Discovery Days, and field trips.

    The city government continues its active support of the project. Community organizations as well as the California State Department of Education have assisted in the district's efforts to offer off-site enrichment opportunities for the teachers and students of the National School District.

    IV. Staff Changes

    Dr. Paul Saltman passed away on Friday, August 27th. Dr. Immo Scheffler, Professor of Biology and designated recipient of the Paul Saltman Chair in Science Education will assume the duties of Principal Investigator for the final year of the project.