Paper No. 19
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


FALLS, Stacey F.1, JOHNSTON, Daniel C.2, ALAIMO, Gail M.3, KAPLAN, Miriam3 and LYNCH, Michael4, (1)Santa Cruz High School, Science Department, Santa Cruz City Schools, 415 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (2)Santa Cruz City Schools, 405 Old San Jose Road, Soquel, CA 95073, (3)Soquel High School, Science Department, Santa Cruz City Schools, 401 Old San Jose Road, Soquel, CA 95073, (4)Harbor High School, Science Department, Santa Cruz City Schools, 300 La Fonda Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062,

In July 2012, six teachers from Santa Cruz County, CA were supported by NSF funding to travel to Panama to participate in field work and inquiry-based curriculum development alongside a team of researchers, scientists, and interns from the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The teachers learned about ancient biodiversity, climate change, and evolution in the context of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, while also gaining practical experience in paleontological collecting. The ultimate goal of the project was to provide teachers with a deeper understanding of key STEM ideas, which will translate into improved curricula for students.

On a daily basis, teachers reflected on what had been learned: discussions, journaling, and blogs allowed time for further questions and investigations. Participants also regularly collaborated on ideas for classroom activities and lessons to be implemented in Santa Cruz County high school classrooms.

Teachers had a unique opportunity to practice some of their lesson ideas, via a partnership with the St. George School in Panama City. After visiting the school and observing classrooms, the California teachers led a class of fourth graders to the Gatun Formation, a Miocene, shallow seaway deposit. The fourth graders were led in an investigation of the area and the numerous fossils present. Some of these lessons will be adapted for the high school classroom in California.

The unique teacher experiences in Panama, when translated to the classroom, will facilitate improved student understanding of the complex nature of science across a broad spectrum of STEM topics as well as highlight the processes involved in scientific inquiry, the necessity of critical thinking skills, and the importance of collaboration within the international scientific community. Upon returning to the classroom in the fall, teachers will incorporate lesson ideas into their curriculum, maintaining regular contact with the professional learning community that was established during the time in Panama. This poster describes lessons developed by the participating teachers in a variety of science disciplines, including biology, AP Biology, chemistry, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, agricultural science, and ocean ecology.