Rocky Mountain Section - 64th Annual Meeting (9–11 May 2012)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


AUBELE, Jayne C., New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104, CONNEALY, Selena, NM EPSCoR, Univ of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131 and NYMAN, Matthew W., Earth & Planetary Science/Natural Science Program, University of New Mexico, MSC03 2040, Albuquerque, NM 87131,

Since 2007, the Science Education Institute of the Southwest (SEIS), in partnership with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS) and the Albuquerque BioPark, has provided a rich learning experience for K-6 teachers in central New Mexico. The SEIS Museum Teaching Fellowship provides modest stipends and supplies for teachers to work during the summer in these two informal science education centers. Over the course of several weeks, teachers work with informal science educators to learn specific science content, details about all aspects of the museum including behind-the-scenes operation and, most importantly, investigate how the facilities and resources can be used in their teaching and classrooms. Each teacher is required to develop, complete and implement a project related to their experience, which is presented at a capstone meeting near the end of the summer. The teachers then take their knowledge of the available resources back to their schools and school districts. This program provides an innovative link between formal and informal science education. Nationally, informal science education institutions, such as museums, science centers, zoos, and aquariums, are perceived by their communities as trusted local sources for reliable science information, with access to local scientists and their scientific research, and as accessible and non-threatening places to learn about science. Large numbers of school group field trips visit weekly, and teachers can effectively use these facilities to teach science. This program has proven to be particularly important for the inclusion of geoscience in the primary grades curriculum. The NMMNHS Fellows, with support from museum curators, educators, and the museum exhibits, are provided with the tools to use New Mexico-specific geoscience to interest their students in science. Teachers report that their Fellowship experiences have been career and even life-changing events in large part due to the personal and professional connections developed with fellow teachers and informal education staff; that is, they are developing a broad-based science education community. Fellows also report a renewed energy, enthusiasm and ideas for teaching science utilizing content and resources they discover during their work.