Over the next couple weeks, BGSU will help about 170 northwest Ohio teachers reinforce their knowledge of elementary math and science education.
The University will host summer institutes for two grant projects—Research-based Inquiry Physics Experiences (RIPE), from June 18-28, and Northwest Ohio Teachers Enhancing Achievement in Mathematics and Science (NWO TEAMS). Sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Center of Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education, a group of NWO TEAMS teachers who entered the two-year program last summer will be on campus June 18-21, followed by a new group June 25-July 3.
Both projects are part of BGSU’s ongoing efforts to improve education in the so-called STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and math.
The 41 participants in RIPE teach preschool through third grade, while the 128 teachers expected for NWO TEAMS are from grades 3-6. In both cases, though, they will be learning different classroom approaches—to physics in RIPE and to science in general, plus math, in NWO TEAMS—and how best to address state standards. Each project also offers materials for the teachers to take back to their schools, opportunity for graduate credit and follow-up during the school year.
RIPE is one of 22 science and math education projects statewide to receive funding through the federal Improving Teacher Quality Program. Earlier this year, the Ohio Board of Regents released more than $2.8 million for projects in higher-need Ohio schools, including $133,549 for RIPE.
The project director, Dr. Tracy Huziak-Clark, School of Teaching and Learning, said that she and her collaborator, Dr. Stephen Van Hook, physics and astronomy, have researched the youngest students’ understanding of scientific concepts, based on hands-on learning, conceptual hooks such as songs and phrases, and movements and physical activities.
In RIPE, they will share information about content as well as what they’ve learned about teaching. Physics content in Ohio’s state standards for early childhood education focuses on sound and light, forces and motion, magnetism, astronomy and energy, Huziak-Clark said. For example, she explained, the standards require that students gain some understanding of energy, so lifting items can help show how it is transferred from food to exercise, and a spring is useful for a discussion of how energy enters, is stored and leaves an object.
“Historically, teachers of kindergarten through third grade do not have physics as part of their preparation and, therefore, feel less prepared for the physical science Ohio standards,” she said. “We are hoping that this project will help teachers learn physical science concepts and be excited and comfortable teaching them in the fall.”
Participants will receive a kit of materials—including magnets and toys with springs—to take back to their classrooms. All of the teachers must then develop and implement a weeklong unit based on what they learn. That will be among the topics of discussion at three follow-up meetings this fall.
NWO TEAMS is funded through the Ohio Department of Education Math and Science Partnership program and was awarded to BGSU and the University of Toledo. Dr. Lena Ballone-Duran, School of Teaching and Learning, and Dr. Emilio Duran of UT are the principal investigators. Last year, $350,000 was provided for the first group of teachers who went through the summer institute and eight school-year meetings. This year, the number of participants has increased by 88 and the funding by nearly $300,000, to about $634,000.
The professional development project focuses on enhancement of state-based teaching units, to be more specific to northwest Ohio, said Jessica Belcher, the project coordinator. The goal is to provide participants with “resources, tools and teaching habits that will make them better teachers in the long run,” she added.
Teaching the teachers will be “facilitators” from BGSU and UT; Findlay, Toledo and Bowling Green schools; the Hancock County and Wood County educational service centers (formerly county offices of education), and staff from the Northwest Ohio Center of Excellence.
Partners with BGSU in the regional center are faculty from UT’s SciMaTEC program, the University of Findlay, Owens Community College and Lourdes College; teachers from 19 counties; college students training to be teachers; public school administrators; educational service centers; community agencies, and businesses.