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Suggested Citation:"Cupertino, California." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
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Page 158
Suggested Citation:"Cupertino, California." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
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Page 159
Suggested Citation:"Cupertino, California." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
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Page 160
Suggested Citation:"Cupertino, California." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
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Page 161
Suggested Citation:"Cupertino, California." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
×
Page 162
Suggested Citation:"Cupertino, California." National Academy of Sciences. 1997. Science for All Children: A Guide to Improving Elementary Science Education in Your School District. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4964.
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Page 163

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Cupertino, California A Small School District Builds a Strong Corporate Partnership The Cupertino Union School District serves students residing in a 26- square-mile area of northern California that includes the City of Cuperti- no and parts of Los Altos, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, and Sunny- vale. The distr~ct's 19 elementary schools have an enrollment of 14,500 and a teaching staff of 523. The major focus of the Cupertino Union School District has been on curriculum selection, professional development, and building community support. The district selected an inquiry-centered science curriculum and instituted a comprehensive professional development program. Through a strong partnership with Hewlett-Packard, both teachers and students have benefited from the expertise of scientists. In the summer of 1992, Marybar- bara Zorio and her teammates came to the National Science Re- sources Center's (NSRC) Elementary Science Leadership Institute prepared to meet new challenges. 'We had the new California Sca- ence Framework under one arm and blank newsprint paper under the other," she recalls. Zorio herself hac! been named district sci- ence resource teacher only two days earlier. The Cupertino team was not starting from scratch. The clis- trict had already initiated hands-on science in some of its elemen- tary schools. It had a longstanding commitment to staff develops meet. Equally important, the science program had strong backing from a corporate partner, the Hewlett-Packarcl Company. Under 158

Cupertino, California the Hewlett-Packarcl-Cupertino partnership, which began in 1987, 70 Hewlett-Packard mathematicians and scientists visited students en cl teachers in two different schools every week. Hewlett-Packard also offered science classes to Cupertino teachers and administra- tors. And in 1992, Hewlett-Packard awarcled the district a three-year grant that would provide $30,000 per year for the elementary sci- ence program. The district decided to earmark these funds for staff development. Mark Butler, a Hewlett-Packard scientist ant! member of the Leadership Institute team, recalls the enthusiasm shared by his teammates early on. "It was a great kickoff for the whole program," he recalls. Even though Hewlett-Packard had been involvecl in sci- ence education reform in Cupertino for many years, it was in the team-building environment of the Institute that the members were able to "bond" and the program gained momentum. Taking Steps Toward Science Education Reform At the Institute, Zorio, Butler, and their teammates drafted a three- year plan for science education reform. "It wasn't written in ce- ment. Sometimes we had to change course," Zorio admits, "but we had a road along which we were moving." The plan had a dual function: to meet local needs as well as the criteria set forth in the newly issued California Framework. A first step in the plan was to develop a system for introduc- ing the key science content areas. Cupertino decided to focus first on the physical sciences; life science and earth science would be introduced in years 2 and 3, respectively. A second step was to se- lect the curricula. The California Framework recommended five el- ementary science programs, including the NSRC's Science and Technology for Children (STC) program. The (listrict invited rep- resentatives of these programs to make presentations concerning their products. Selected modules were pilot-testecl in winter 1993. Working as partners, two teachers a veteran science teacher and a less-experienced, "science-shy" teacher taught each of the moc3- ules under consideration for adoption. The experiences of the two teachers combined, Zorio noted, gave the team the needed "rounded perspective." ~59

Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice Staff Development: "The Power Has to Come from Within" Staff development might be described as the linchpin of science education reform in Cupertino. The district's staff development plan, initiated well in advance of classroom implementation of hands-on science, is centered on learning by example. Teachers have the opportunity to experience the kinds of instruction they are expected to provide to their students. All of Cupertino's elementary school teachers had that expe- riential opportunity on September 26, 1994, when Cupertino held its first clistrictwide Science Learning Day. Teachers who had pilot- tested the kits chosen for inclusion in the curriculum conclucte walk-throughs of the materials for their colleagues who wouIcI be presenting those modules in their classrooms in the fall. In all, 13 different kits in the physical sciences were presented. The event was highly successful, ant! a second Science Learning Day was scheduled for May 1995. One reason for the success of this event is that the planners tapped expertise among the teachers. "The power of staff development has to come from within," Zorio comments. This approach has an added acivantage: it is cost-effective. Teachers familiar with the kits can replicate the sessions for their colleagues throughout the year at conve- nient times, and they are close at hand for follow-up consultations. John Erkman, director of instruction since 1993, maintains that the approach being used in training teachers in science fits well within the district's overall staff development model. 'We have a commitment to make sure we give our teachers the best content knowledge balanced with the opportunities for coaching, peer support, reflection, and practice that have to be in place to make the content integral to the classroom experience," he says. Elementary science education reform, the Cupertino plan- ners know, is much more than using kits and getting students in- volved in hands-on activities. In Erkman's words, "It's bringing questioning and discovery into the classroom. Our teachers must shift from being the 'fountain of knowledge' into being people who guide the students in finding information. If our teachers are going to make that shift, we've got to do more than simply say, 'Go ahead and do this."' 160

Cupertino, California Mentor teacher Patti Holcomb, previously counted among the "science-shy," attests to the impact of Cupertino's staff devel- opment program and the paradigm shift to which Erkrnan refers. "The focus of our training," she recalls, "was to make us more com- fortable with our general knowledge of science. Part of this is re- alizing that we clon't need to have all the answers. What we do need to know is where to go to fins! them." The Hewlett-Packard Partnership: "More than Money Alone" The financial support of the Hewlett-Packarc3 Company was in- strumental in getting the Cupertino program off to a strong start, and the district recently received a second Hewlett-Packard grant. Nonetheless, in Zorio's words, it's been "more than money alone" when it comes to the importance of Hewlett-Packarc! in helping the district realize its science education goals. For example, Hewlett-Packard consultants helped the district design its materials center, where the science kits are stored. They also set up classroom computers and are information resources for HoIcomb and others. When a difficult question arises in a module in STC's Magnets and Motors unit, Hoicomb's fifth-graders can communicate on-line with Hewlett-Packard staff. Because of this close collaboration with a technology-basec! company, says Hol- comb, the students "don't feel like they're outside of science. They like the feeling of being in the middle. rather than being on the outside looking in." When the corporate partnership began, Hewlett-Packard gave Mark Butler full-time responsibility for serving as a liaison be- tween the school system and the company. His job is to match Hewlett-Packard resources with learning neecls. One of the most productive matches has involved Chuck Morehouse, a Hewlett- Packard physical scientist. As part of Cupertino's "Afternoon with the Science Expert" program, Morehouse has met monthly with fifth-grade teachers who are teaching Magnets and Motors. A second physical scientist is slated to help out in a similar fashion with the STC first-gracle module Solids and Liquids. Morehouse is a central resource for all teachers. Under a new program, Science Partners, that began in the 199195 academic ~6~

Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice year, Hewlett-Packard scientists volunteer to work with inclividual teachers in their classrooms on a one-on-one basis. Eight Cuperti- no schools were involvecl in Science Partners cluring its first year. Following a successful pilot test, the project, Butler notes, will be "rolled out" so that there will be at least three or four scientists in each of the ctistrict's 19 elementary schools. Hewlett-Packarcl has also introducer! the program in other school districts. A Broadening Circle of Support At the NSRC Leaclership Institute, the Cupertino team gained an unclerstanding of the importance of community involvement. Consequently, the district formed two community task forces. The groups tackled important questions such as, What does the com- munity value in science education? en cl What can we do to provide that to students? Both groups have become solid acivocates for sci- ence education reform- especially important resources in an era of budget cutbacks. Community scientists have also been drawn into the action; for example, an environmental scientist from the City of Cuperti- no recently visited a classroom to help students with a composting activity. The partnership established with Hewlett-Packarc3 has thus been complemented by a broadening community partnership in Cupertino. Erkman sums it up like this: "Our teachers have multi- ple layers of support from mentors, lead teachers, and commu- nity scientists." By building an effective corporate partnership and focusing on staff clevelopment, Cupertino has developed a broad base of support for its elementary science program. This has enabled the school district to create an elementary science program that meets exacting state stanclarcls, provides its students with challenging op- portunities in science education, and boasts a cadre of enthusias- tic, well-informed, and well-equipped teachers. 162

Cupertino, California Creative corporate partnerships with school districts can provide opportunities for engineers and scientists to become directly in- volved in school science programs. School districts can tap local expertise by giving their own experi- enced staff responsibility for professional development. This in- creases the probability that staff will be enthusiastic about the pro- gram, and it is also cost-effective. Community task forces can offer a rich source of input into plan- ning efforts and broaden the base of support in the community. ~63

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Remember the first time you planted a seed and watched it sprout? Or explored how a magnet attracted a nail? If these questions bring back memories of joy and wonder, then you understand the idea behind inquiry-based science--an approach to science education that challenges children to ask questions, solve problems, and develop scientific skills as well as gain knowledge. Inquiry-based science is based on research and experience, both of which confirm that children learn science best when they engage in hands-on science activities rather than read from a textbook.

The recent National Science Education Standards prepared by the National Research Council call for a revolution in science education. They stress that the science taught must be based on active inquiry and that science should become a core activity in every grade, starting in kindergarten. This easy-to-read and practical book shows how to bring about the changes recommended in the standards. It provides guidelines for planning and implementing an inquiry-based science program in any school district.

The book is divided into three parts. "Building a Foundation for Change," presents a rationale for inquiry-based science and describes how teaching through inquiry supports the way children naturally learn. It concludes with basic guidelines for planning a program.

School administrators, teachers, and parents will be especially interested in the second part, "The Nuts and Bolts of Change." This section describes the five building blocks of an elementary science program:

  • Community and administrative support.
  • A developmentally appropriate curriculum.
  • Opportunities for professional development.
  • Materials support.
  • Appropriate assessment tools.

Together, these five elements provide a working model of how to implement hands-on science.

The third part, "Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice," presents profiles of the successful inquiry-based science programs in districts nationwide. These profiles show how the principles of hands-on science can be adapted to different school settings.

If you want to improve the way science is taught in the elementary schools in your community, Science for All Children is an indispensable resource.

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