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Pasadena, California Pasadena Develops a Mode' for Teacher-Scientist Partnerships The Pasadena Unif ed School Distr~ct's 23 elementary schools (K-6) have 570 teachers and a student enrollment of 12,500. Forty-three percent of stu- dents are Hispanic/Latino, 35 percent are Afracan American, and 17 per- cent are Euro-Amer~can. Inquiry-centered science is taught in both English and Spanish. Pasadena 's science program is a joint effort of the Pasadena Unified SchoolDistr~ct and the California Institute of Technology. The pro- gram is based on the premise that scientists can contribute much to profes- sional development activities for elementary school teachers. r ~ . he Pasadena Unified School District Science Program (formerly known as Project SEED) is the brainchild of Jerry Pine and Jim Bowers, scientists at the Califor- nia Institute of Technology (CalTech). Pine is a physicist who has been active in elementary school science education reform since the 1960s; Bowers is a neurobiologist. In the mid-l98Os, both men had children in the Pasadena schools. They knew that science ed- ucation in the elementary schools could be better. On their own time, they began to visit exemplary elementary science programs such as the one established in Mesa, Arizona. Experience told them that a good deal of progress haci already been made in ele- mentary school science reform. They wanted to move forward; they didn't want to reinvent the wheel. So the two scientists formed an alliance with Michael Klentschy, then associate super- intenclent for instruction in the Pasadena Unified School District, and formulated a plan to introduce inquiry-centered science units into the district's elementary schools. 171
Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice Scientists: The Heart of It At' The involvement of CalTech scientists is at the heart of Pasadena's science education program. At the beginning, the watchwords were "think small." They approached Klentschy and secured his enthusiastic endorsement. Having gotten the district's permission to begin a pilot program in one school, Bowers and Pine then met Jennifer Yure, a science teacher at the Eugene Field Elementary School. During the next five years, Yure recalls, they "just tried things out," as they sought to determine the best way to introduce teachers to hands-on science. 'We finally came up with what we thought was the best model," she says. "It's teachers and scientists working together." It's "working together" that makes the Pasadena program unique. Many programs use scientists as expert consultants; at Pasadena, scientists and teachers work side by sicle. Rather than lecture, the scientists work as co-facilitators with resource teachers as they train teachers in the use of the science modules that make up the program. The unique training mode! was supported by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. CalTech's Leila Gonzalez first heard about the program from Bowers, then her professor, when she was a postdoctoral fellow in biology in 1989. The affiniyv was immediate. "Something inside me saicl, 'Yes. This is the way science should be taught,"' she recalls. Today, she works for the program full-time as a liaison be- tween the scientific and educational communities. The recruit- ment and training of scientists are her major responsibilities. Recruitment, Gonzalez admits, is not a hurdle, given the de- gree of local support for the program. Volunteers include not only CalTech faculty but also students, alumni, retirees, en cl parents. Aware of the need for female role models in science, Gonzalez has made a special effort to recruit volunteers from organizations such as the American Association of University Women. About 150 sci- entists currently participate in the Pasadena program. All new recruits undergo an orientation at CalTech. They be- come acquainted with the science kits en cl the structure of Pasatle- na's program. The inquiry-basec3 learning process itself, however, needs no introduction. "This is the way you learn science as a grad- uate student," Gonzalez notes. After the orientation, they can also 172
-art Pasadena, California ~:* check out kits from the science materials center; in acIdition, pro- gram staff are always available for guidance. Once the scientists are on board, their major responsibility is to participate in the teacher training programs. Approximately 10 teachers attend each of the day-Ion" sessions, which are facilitated by a teacher-scientist team. The teachers break into small groups, anct the scientist circulates informally among them. The scientists have two main responsibilities. One is to build the teachers' confi- dence and make them feel comfortable with the subject. "Our thrust is to support the teacher," Gonzalez emphasizes. "Science is a natural process, and you don't need to be a scientist to teach sci- ence." All 570 elementary school teachers in the district eventual- ly underwent the training. The other responsibility of the scientists is to mode] the sci- entific process. "Sometimes teachers have difficulty believing that involvement in the scientific process is more important than just knowing the facts," notes Yure, who is now coordinator of the Pasadena Unified School District Science Program. "Teachers tell us that they have difficulty, for example, asking open-endecI ques- tions. Thus, we ask the scientist to mode] this process." Scientists also help the teachers keep the "big picture" in mincl. Teachers learn to focus on the purpose of experiments and the connection between them rather than on the details. After they've taught their first module, teachers return for a second training session. These sessions are again facilitated by a teacher-scientist team. At this point, qualms about classroom man- agement have passed. Together, the groups discuss topics such as as- sessment of student learning or a particular activity within the unit. It "Just Clicked" In some cases, the teacher-scientist relationship goes further. A sci- entist may begin to visit the classroom of a teacher he or she met during a staff development session. Such was the case with Barbara Bray, a thircl-grade lead teacher at the Field School, and scientist resee Morissette, who is completing her doctorate at CalTech. They met, Morissette recalls, by "pure luck" as co-trainers of a module callecl CIay Boats. The re- lationship 'dust clicked." Bray emphasizes how easily Morissette has 173
Inquiry-Centered Science in Practice become a part of her classes. Before Morissette's visits, Bray recalls, the children had a "whole stereotypical view of what a scientist was and what they do. Josee changed that. The children feel comfort- able having her in the room." Exactly what happens when a teacher en c! a scientist get to- gether? Each learns from the other, and learning horizons widen. "Barbara knows what third-graders will find appropriate," Moris- sette notes. "She's also open to brainstorming icleas about how to do things better." Having discovered, for example, that Clay Boats dicl not include student activities that involved liquids of different densities, Bray and Morissette clecided to enrich the unit by Hilling activities that involved such liquids as glycerin, alcohol, vinegar, and oil. Moreover, the next time Bray presented the mod- ule at a staff clevelopment session, she incluclecI information on the activities that she and Morissette had jointly cleveloped. The advantages of the teamwork are obvious. Having a scien- tist in the classroom, Bray believes, strengthens curricular integra- tion. 'We can use science as a vehicle or catalyst for other things," she explains. Morissette points to shifts in student attitudes. Stu- dents seem more confident. They are more willing to try new things out, and they are more comfortable with "not always know- ing the right answer," she believes. ~ Focusing on Assessment Opportunities for growth remain, even for a mature program such as Pasaclena's. One current focus of staff development activities is assessment. Assessment study groups have been formed for each grade level. Members include a resource teacher from the Pasadena Uni- fied School District Science Program, a scientist, and three teach- ers who have extensive experience with the kit for which assess- ments are being developed. Gail Baxter, a research investigator from the University of Michigan, is a consultant to this grant-sup- ported program. Assessments are needed for a variety of reasons. Some-mod- uTes use traditional paper-and-pencil tests, which do not adequate- ly reflect inquiry-based learning. In other cases, the teachers have enhanced the module, and active assessments are needed to doc 174
Pasadena, California ument student performance in these new areas. Equally impor- tant, Gonzalez observes, is that "in creating an assessment, teach- ers really get a fee] for what's important in the unit." The study group meetings, Yure explains, give teachers a chance to ask basic questions: What do we want the kids to learn? What are they learning? How are we teaching it? Morissette adcis, "Once teachers get comfortable with the units, they don't neces- sarily focus on the scientific principles. Designing an assessment helps them get a grasp of the four or five key principles presenter! in a kit." The study groups have found that embedcled assessments (as- sessments that are woven into a class activity) are especially helpful, because they can give teachers feedback about student learning while the module is still in progress. This allows the teacher to mod- ify the activities or teaching approach to meet learners' needs. All assessment instruments are pilot-testec3 in the classroom. Moris- sette, for example, has a key role both in the thirckgrade assessment study group and in testing the assessments in Bray's classroom. Scientists are an integral part of the district's science program. They are present at the beginning, when new teachers open their first kits. They also continue to be involved as teachers become more skilled at teaching science, contributing their unique per- spective to the clevelopment of performance-based assessment tools. "The scientists are unbelievably cledicated to making a dip ference in children's learning," says Bray. The program, she be- lieves, is "not turning students into scientists; it's letting them learn in a vital new way. An cl it's a wonclerfu] opportunity for teachers." 175
Inquiry-centered Science in Practice .,. Scientists and engineers can become involved in all phases of planning and implementing an inquiry-based elementary science program. Pairing teachers and scientists in the classroom can be a mutually satisfying learning experience. Such relationships, however, cannot be forced.They work best when they develop naturally over the course of working together. Teachers can benefit from the opportunity to work in small groups to develop assessment tools. Many teachers find that focusing on assessment enables them to better understand the scientific princi- ples in a curriculum module. 176