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Project Inquiry: Building a Presence for Science in the Lowcountry Overview

published: 12/21/2001
posted to site: 12/21/2001

Project Inquiry: Building a Presence for Science in the Lowcountry


Project Inquiry: Building a Presence for Science in the Lowcountry is working to improve the scientific literacy of all students in grades 3-8 in Berkeley County School District (BCSD) and Charleston County School District (CCSD) in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. This five year (2000-2005), Local Systemic Change (LSC) project is providing all teachers (1144) in grades 3-8, with at least 135 hours of professional development. The school districts support professional development for grades K-2 teachers by using Eisenhower, state and local funds. Inquiry-based curriculum materials, (Full Option Science System, Insights, Science and Technology for Children, and Science Education for Public Understanding Program), teaching strategies, and assessment promote content knowledge that is consistent with the SC Science Curriculum Standards and Framework and the National Science Education Standards and is moving both districts significantly closer to full implementation of standards-based science teaching. Material Resource Centers (MRC) are established in both districts to provide a systematic way to distribute hands-on science materials to all K-8 classrooms. Faculty from higher education institutions such as the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, the Citadel, Charleston Southern University, and Trident Technical College play a role in supporting the professional development activities and serve on the Steering Committee. Business partners such as Bayer, DuPont, Santee Copper, and BP/Amoco also provide their expertise in science to make the connection from science in the classroom to real-world application.


Strand I: Project Inquiry Science Kit Training

As a result of Project Inquiry activities and the South Carolina Instructional Materials Adoption, both school districts are moving towards full implementation of kit-based science instruction. The curriculum matrix for each district is slightly different because of what new materials the teachers selected during the instructional materials adoption and what materials were in place prior to the adoption. Professional development is provided to teachers on the science kits prior to receiving the materials from the material resource centers (MRC). The Science Resource Teachers visit schools on a regular basis. They provide support for kit use by planning with the teachers, team teaching, conducting demonstration lessons, making classroom observation, and using rubrics to reflect on student learning. The SRTs are also providing activities to move beyond the mechanical use of the science kits (e.g. use of formative assessment, science notebooks, integrating of reading and math standards, and effective research based teaching practices).

In both districts there is a strong focus on reading and math due to the State's new accountability model. Project Inquiry's SRTs and co-PIs attended a presentation on November 15, 2000, in Greensboro, North Carolina to learn more about the impact of El Centro's work on student achievement. As a result, Dr. Michael Klentschy made a presentation on January 23, 2001, to key administrators, lead science teachers, business and higher education scientists, and school board members.

Strand II: Ongoing Professional Development

At the beginning of the project, August 2000, teachers in Project Inquiry developed an individual professional development plan based on a self-assessment checklist. These plans are being used to plan courses and workshops to meet the needs of teachers.

Graduate Courses. The following science content courses were offered by Project Inquiry in collaboration with the College of Charleston during the first year: CoastTeam for Middle School; Middle School Science Standards for grades 6 and 7; Summer Science Standards Institute for grades 1 - 5, Physical Science and/or Earth Science for Elementary and Middle Teachers; and an Inquiry Institute.

The SRTs worked with master teachers (20 master teachers) to design the 1-5 Summer Science Standards Institutes for each grade level. The content focused on deepening teachers understanding of the science content, questioning techniques, inquiry extensions, science notebooks, development of instructional modules in a standards-based classroom, and clarification and alignment of standards with the science kits. Follow-up sessions addressed additional content needs and a discussion of vertical articulation.

Plans are underway for the K-5 Summer Science Standards Institutes, Inquiry Institute, an Assessment Institute, CoastTeam by grade level, and Life Science for Elementary and Middle School Teachers.

Workshops. A major activity for Project Inquiry during year 1 and 2 is ongoing training on the science kits, especially with the adoption of new kits at most grade levels and the addition of kits for kindergarten and grades 6, 7, and 8. The goal is to have every teacher participate in training prior to teaching the science kit for the first time. Another major focus is to introduce teachers to the science notebooks to enhance student learning. In collaboration with the SC Statewide Systemic Initiative (Charleston Hub), a series of after school grade level assessment workshops were held for grades 3-8. This year we are working with the Hubs on training for Standards in Practice (EduTrust) workshops for reflection on student work. The SRTs worked with teachers during the instructional materials adoption (about 12-hours/grade level) with rubrics for content, inquiry, and best practices. Five-day standards-based workshops were offered to school teams (teachers and principals) from every CCSD school; the co-PI and SRTs presented standards, the NSRC model for effective science programs, appropriate assessment strategies, instructional modules, and curriculum integration and/or vertical articulation sessions. The SRT's are also working with the cadre of kit trainers to standardize training for each kit and providing workshops on leadership and presentation skills. Other workshops include: StarLab, Science Fairs, 3 kinds of hands-on Inquiry, 4 Blocks Language Arts and Science, formative assessment, integrating FOSS Science Stories and language arts, and EarthKam (a NASA project to photograph the earth from the space station and integration with FOSS kits: Landforms and Earth History.

School-based Activities. SRTs visit every school (90) participating in Project Inquiry on a regular basis. A major focus this year is to introduce schools to science notebooks (approximately 12 hours) with follow-up sessions for teachers to reflect on student work. Other topics include: presentations about the grant, grade level meetings on standards, team teaching, demonstration lessons, lab safety checks, science notebooks, teacher observations with feedback, materials management, science content, and process skills, etc.

As part of the NSF Student Outcome Study, the SRTs assisted with the piloting and pre-testing of all 5th grade students, and conducted a reliability study for classroom observations of 100 teachers during their use of science kits. We are in the process of collecting samples of student work for examination using the Standards in Practice protocol next summer.

Outreach. Project Inquiry wrote letters of support and a request to participate in four NSF funded projects: Lowcountry Science Partner for Inquiry Teaching and Learning with Medical University of South Carolina, a SEPUP study with the Lawrence Hall of Science, an assessment study with the West Virginia LSC and Project Climate with the College of Charleston and NOAA.

Strand III: Leadership Development for Science Resource Teachers (SRTs) and Lead Science Teachers (LSTs).

To sustain Project Inquiry, there is a need to develop a community of leaders among teachers with a special interest and expertise in science education. There are two categories for teacher leaders: Science Resource Teachers (SRTs) and Lead Science Teachers (LSTs). Project Inquiry hired 7 outstanding SRTs (June, 2000) and asked principals to identify 90 LSTs (August 2000).

The SRTs entered this project with various professional development backgrounds. To ensure that all SRTs develop and enhance their skills, professional development opportunities have been offered to the SRTs. (2000-2001): 1) STC overview with Diana Corley; 2) Assessment workshop with the SC Science Supervisors; 3) Inquiry Institute and Assessment Institutes at the Exploratorium; 4) South Carolina Science Council; 5) El Centro, California Project on reading and science literacy; 5) designing and evaluating professional development with Kathy Stiles; 6) bi-monthly meetings with co-PIs; 7) Middle School Summit; 8) Grant Writing Workshop; 9) Leadership Workshop; 10) State & District Level Lab Safety Workshop; 11) a week long standards summer workshop for elementary and middle school teachers; 12) a graduate course, Meaningful and Manageable Assessment Through Cooperative Learning (Dr. Roger Johnson); 13) mentor training; 14) evaluator training; 15) CoastTeam; 16) Star Lab workshop; 17) Master Teacher Network workshops--'Getting Your Foot in the Door' and 'Classroom ; Management; 18) self-directed kit training; 19) SC Aquarium training; 20) Brain Research Conference; 21) SC Reading Conference; 22) NSTA Conference in St. Louis; 23) Expository Writing; 24) the Change Game; 25) Who Moved the Cheese workshop; 26) American Physical Society, Lead-Scientist Alliance; 27) LASER workshop in Greenville, SC; 28) Professional Development Study Group with Berkeley's Director of Staff Development; and, 29) two SRTs participated in the training, Designing Professional Development sponsored by SERVE; 30)SC Staff Development Conference, Evaluating Professional Development with Dr. Thomas Guskey.

To build on the first year's activities, the SRTs and co-PI's have plans are underway for the following PD activities for the SRTs (2001-2002): 1) Next Steps, LASER conference, Greenville; 2) National Staff Development Conference, Denver; 3) Association for Educators Teaching Science, Charlotte; 4) NSTA Conference, San Diego; 5) South Carolina Science Council; 6) SC Maps; 7) Jason Project; 8) FOSS Training: Earth History and Planetary Science at Lawrence Hall of Science; 9) Standards in Practice(EduTrust); 10) CCSD Standards-based Classroom; 11) Association of Curriculum and Supervision, San Antonio; 12) Project Inquiry Study Group: assessment focus.

Leadership Development for LSTs in both districts has included: 1) participation in kit training; 2) monthly meetings with SRTs; 3) CSIB training on assessment items; 4) Star Lab training; 5) orientation to MRC operations; 6) leadership skills; 7) designing professional development; 8) standards workshops; 9) Cunningham model with science kits; and, 10) writing across the curriculum, 11) workshop with Dr. Michael Klentschy; and 12) 7 day Leadership Academy, June-November 2001; and 13) Master Teacher kit training. Plans are underway for a Leadership Academy for LSTs (July 2002) while continuing with monthly LSTs meetings and study groups and a leadership day with Dr. Lawrence Lowery (February 2002).

Strand IV: Professional Development for Administrators

Each school and district has specific needs to implement science reform and sustain it. In a meeting with Kathy Stiles, West Ed, the Project Inquiry staff discussed professional development opportunities with administrators. CCSD's co-PI and an SRT met with their superintendent and associate superintendent to discuss PD for school-based administrators. BCSD's co-PI and SRTs have ongoing meetings with the Deputy Superintendent, Elementary and Middle School Administrative Supervisors, Directors of Curriculum and Staff Development, and elementary and middle school Instructional Liaisons regarding the Professional Development Plan for School Administrators. In January, 2001 one outcome from these meetings was the request to have Dr. Michael Klentschy, superintendent of the El Centro School District, present his work on the use of science kits and their impact on students' language development, writing, and math skills. The LSTs from each school and key administrators from the following districts attended: BCSD (superintendent, ES and MS curriculum directors, administrative supervisors, director of staff development, director of assessment and strategic planning, and principals) and CCSD (deputy superintendent, associate superintendents, associate superintendent for the Center for Student Learning, directors of evaluation, academic development and enhancement, a school board member, and principals). Building on the success of last year's event, a Leadership Day is planned for February 2002, with Dr. Lawrence Lowery.

SRTs 1) met with each principal, one-on-one, to give an overview of Project Inquiry; 2) met with Instructional Liaisons (assistant principals, title 1 school facilitators) from each school; 3) met with Science Advisory Council; 4) met with Deputy Superintendent for Division of Learning Services; 5) met several times with Director of Curriculum; 6) met with reading, math, and special education coordinators; and, 7) developed and distributed an Administrator's Guide to each school.; 8) SRT's have monthly meeting to plan collaborative work with other curriculum areas; 9) correlated 6+1 traits writing with science notebooks; 10) met with Early Childhood Coordinator to integrate early childhood kits with 4 block reading model; 11) met with elementary and middle school principals to give an update on kit training, institutes being offered, and other plans for the 2001-02 school year. The SRT's and the Director of Staff Development presented during general session of the BCSD Lead Teacher Retreat for all curriculum areas to stress importance and techniques of providing quality PD in their schools. The SRTs are presenting at breakout sessions (e.g., opportunities for professional developing, science kits, and instructional materials adoption).

Administrators participated in 1) Lab Safety Training; 2) attended the Middle School Summit; and 3) attended Leadership Training.

During CCSD's 5 day workshop, Making Standards Happen in the Classroom, the co-PI and SRTs presented the SC Science Curriculum Standards, planning strategies for an effective standards based school (NSRC model), and an overview of assessment to all school teams. All of the key elements such as instructional planning using the backward design model, assessment, and collaborative planning included science. Many of these key elements were also incorporated into the Summer Science Standards Institute to ensure that teachers participating in Project Inquiry PD could support the CCSD teams and share their science expertise. SRTs and the co-PI's continue to meet and interact with all of the associate superintendents and the principals. The SRTs also attend administrators meetings. The administrator's manual for building an effective science program was distributed to new principals. All administrators were given assistance in ordering new instructional materials and receive regular updates on the status of kit training in their school. A lending library and videotape collection is being developed to provide support to administrators. A team (associate superintendent from District 4, a scientist from Sigma Xi, and an SRT) attended the American Physical Society, Lead-Scientist Alliance, January 2001. For the LASER project, an associate superintendent and an SRT participated with the College of Charleston team, March 2001. After Dr. Klentschy's visit, the co-PI met with the deputy superintendent, the associate superintendent for the Center for Student Learning, and the six associate superintendents to discuss Project Inquiry, institutionalization of the Material Resource Center and a rubric based on the NSRC model for science reform comparing El Centro and CCSD. As a result, the planning team endorsed the NSRC model for science reform and a new site for the MRC was designed for spring 2002. For the new school year (2001-02), Science is equally represented along with reading and math in the district's five Focus Goals. An Administrative Bulletin (fall 2001) communicates that all schools are expected to participate in professional development activities related to the science kit and use FOSS, STC, SEPUP, and Insights science kits provided by the MRC as the primary instructional materials for science instruction; textbooks are supplemental. The IMAX Theatre provided the LSTs with meeting space for a follow-up celebration for the Leadership Academy. Other activities include: exploring opportunities for collaboration with the SC Statewide Systemic Initiative (Charleston Hub) on administrator workshops (e.g. Standards in Practice).

Community Outreach

Efforts are underway to engage parents and scientists in higher education and the business community in the science reform efforts. The Charleston Rotary Club sponsored an essay contest and a Tri-County career fair (spring 2001. Scientists from business (Bayer, Santee Cooper) and higher education (MUSC, College of Charleston, and The Citadel) attended Dr. Klentschy's presentation (January, 2001). An article about Project Inquiry appeared in the Post and Courier, November 14, 2000. BCSD's Deputy Superintendent included Project Inquiry in a PowerPoint presentation to the Berkeley Rotary Club, School Board, and local community groups. For two years in a row, Governor Jim Hodges signed a proclamation, South Carolina Reads For the Science of It Week, in December. The Post and Courier printed an article and picture of Gina Boyd, SRT, reading Moonflower by Peter and Jean Loewer. This year's book will be Peach and Blue. The Bayer Corporation's program, Science Making Sense, sponsored astronaut Mae Jemison visit at the SC Aquarium and Project Inquiry coordinated student visits and participation in the competition. SRT's met with Dr. Goldiner to coordinate efforts between Project Inquiry and the College of Charleston. A meeting was held with the SC Aquarium to plan professional development activities that related to the curriculum. A local community paper, School Connection, is providing space each month to recognize a school's science efforts. They also are working with us for an educational day at the Southeastern Wildlife Festival and negotiating with the Exchange Club for Physics in the Amusement Park at the Tri-County Fair. Bayer Corporation has included Project Inquiry on international newsletters.

Representatives from local businesses such as Bayer, Santee Cooper, Mining Treasures, Old Santee Canal State Park, Biedler Forest, SC Forestry Commission, and Kids Who Care environmental project met with the SRTs and LSTs and are conducting programs in the elementary schools. We are currently working with Old Santee Canal State Park to set up workshops with the National Wildlife Federation. The Bayer Corporation has scientists who are working with the BCSD's schools through the Science Making Sense Program. BCSD sends monthly newsletters to local businesses; local business leaders provide prizes and help judge the annual science fair; SRT's are working with local schools to implement the Sewee Project; SR's participate in Family Science nights a local schools; and currently is developing a web site for Project Inquiry linked with the district's home page. Several presentations for Project Inquiry have been made in the community such as a power point presentation by the Director of Curriculum made to county school board and the Deputy Superintendent's presentations to Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and State School Board Association, The Executive Director of Public Relations includes Project Inquiry on District, State, and Community publications.

The MRC Leadership Team completed a self-study for the American Physical Society and sent a three-member team to the Lead-Scientist Institute (January 2001). They also planned an event, Science Partners that included an inquiry activity and orientation to the MRC and science kits. Forty-one scientists attended and indicated a willingness to be email partners for teachers, judges for science fairs, presenters for career days, and advocates for science. Four professors from the College of Charleston each presented 3-hour workshops on Inquiry, Lab Safety, and Chemistry at an in-service day, November 2000. SRTs are participating in Family Math and Science nights with the Charleston Hub. LSTs are hearing presentations each month from community agencies with science resources. The co-PI presented Project Inquiry and the material resource center at the SC State Board Conference. An SRT presented the LSC to the Charleston Rotary Club. The Charleston Restaurant Association adopted the CCSD as a charity and we received $7,000 (spring 2001) for the MRC and will receive another donation (spring 2002). The Charleston Rotary Club is buying one kit and proposing more support next year (20 kits). Coca-Cola also gave the district all of the bottles needed for the Ecosystems science kit.

Project Inquiry re-administered teacher surveys (spring 2001) for Horizon Research. In addition to the random sample of principals and teachers, the Science Resource Teachers and the Lead Teachers were included. The lead evaluator provided information from the principal's survey (spring 2000) and will brief the Project Inquiry Team. The data will be shared with the administrative team and the science advisory boards for each district. Project Inquiry is the first cohort to participate in the NSF Student Outcome Study. Dr. Janet Rose-Baele, CCSD's Director of Evaluation and Research, worked with the co-PI's to develop a study that includes: pre and post testing all 5th grade students, three classroom observations of 100 teachers while they teach the science kits, and a collection of three work samples from each teacher. NSF funded the study.