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Annual Report Overviews


Hands-On Science In Seattle Public Schools, K-5 Annual Overview

published: 07/23/2001
posted to site: 07/23/2001

Hands-On Science In Seattle Public Schools, K-5 Annual Overview

The Seattle Local Systemic Change Program is a partnership with the University of Washington's Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Department of Physics, and K-12 Institute, 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 with a K-12 student population of 46,955. To date there are 1057 grade-level K-5 classroom teachers and 22,996 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.

Joseph Olchefske, Superintendent, and Dr. June Rimmer as Chief Academic Officer, continue to work together to help school staff's transform their instructional programs so that children will be prepared for the 21st Century. All programs are to be standards-based by September 2001.

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 fourth year, seventeen schools came on board. Finally, in our fifth summer, the balance of the fifteen schools have joined. We have approximately 94% of our elementary teachers participating in the program. 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 year five, 94% of the teachers from the 71 schools are participating in the project.
  • We have conducted 5 principal workshops with a total of 42 principals attending.
  • Science Resource Teachers have utilized facilitative leadership skills to assist schools with the development of school-wide improvement plans for science.
  • The Science Materials Center (SMC): has an excellent record of delivering the kits on time and is very "teacher friendly", had success in a community Open House in May 2000, gave its second tour for Washington State LASER's Conference in June 2000 and gave a third tour for the Mini-Steps Conference in September 2000.
  • Family and community science literacy experiences are provided through funding from the University of Washington and some local foundations.
  • Family Science Programs have been provided at the Woodland Park Zoo in May 1998, 1999 and 2000 for schools with a high level of children living in poverty.
  • Dr. Dana Riley-Black, K-12 Institute, U.W., has made commendable efforts in organizing the Science Content Courses and is the contact person for scientists.
  • The Physics Education Group of the Physics Department at the University of Washington has contributed 3000 hours to date in the development of the Science Concept Courses and has helped to recruit scientists for teaching these courses.
  • Dr. Jerome Patoux, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, U.W., has taught the Weather Unit science content course for two years and has now written a book called Weather 2000 - An introduction to the physics of weather for elementary school teachers & Dr. Ellen Wijsman, Dept. of Biostatistics and Division of Medical Genetics, U.W., has developed a useful data analysis course to explore and clarify the uses of various graphing styles in the context of the specific data analysis activities designed for each kit. She teaches the class with SRTs assisting.
  • The District lead a collaborative effort to develop District Science Standards based on our state's Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) and the national standards. These were passed by the School Board in June. At that time the School Board Vice-President came out with a strong statement that the District would sustain the elementary and middle school programs.
  • The Alliance for Education has formed a Science Compact in September 2000 with support from top leaders from Immunex and Boeing, the superintendent and the school board. Again, the Vice-President of the School Board came out and made a strong statement that three committees would be formed to ensure that we sustain the LASER model of science education reform and the work that has been done to date. The three committees are: academic, fund raising, and communication.
  • Two new classes have been developed: Observation Lessons and Subtle Shifts.
  • Science Notebook classes help foster the development of expository written communication skills for each unit. Through using these skills, students can increase their understanding of the science concepts they are investigating.
  • Nine fifth grade teachers piloted the 5th grade P.A.S.S. assessments.
  • The Lead Teacher Program has been further developed and has doubled in size with about 45 active participants.
  • 22 Lead Teachers helped to facilitate classes during the summer of 2000 and two other Lead Teachers acted as Family Science Lead Teachers and helped to facilitate Family Science events in at least two schools.
  • Four Lead Teachers represented the District in Washington State's LASER Conference in June. They updated the vision and mission statement for the K-8 LSC programs.
  • The Annual Retreat attracted about 70 District and community members to discuss issues and challenges of sustainability.
  • For the fourth year, the Alliance for Education has coordinated business and industry funding to provide unit-related field trips for all children in the program.
  • Collaboration with the Middle School Science Systemic Change Partnership LSC continues to grow and provide substantial support for our efforts.
  • A Web site has been established to share components of the program. The address is .