USING MUSEUMS TO BUILD GEOSCIENCE CONFIDENCE IN K-12 TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
Given that teacher expertise and quality is a critical factor in student success, the Museum’s ongoing teacher training efforts are perhaps of even greater importance than direct interaction with schoolchildren. With funding from the National Science Foundation in 2008 and 2010, the Museum reached over 100 Connecticut teachers through an innovative Earth science professional development program. The aim was to improve their skills in teaching the Earth sciences and, specifically, the interpretation of landforms that result from tectonic and erosional forces. Activities included collaborative curriculum development and revision, content-rich summer institutes, field trips to local sites of significant geological importance, and the development and piloting of virtual field investigations. In addition, participating teachers received training in the use of the GeoAction kit—loaned materials and geologic specimens to accompany the classroom curriculum—as well as ongoing support from the Museum’s educators.
Surveys and focus groups found that almost all of the participating teachers felt they would be better teachers of Earth science because they were now more knowledgeable, better prepared, and had new materials that they could use to inspire students. In particular, many teachers were excited about being able to bring examples of local geology into their classrooms. Student learning was assessed using multiple-choice questions and short-answer science process skills questions, and results suggest that the significant performance gains observed are a direct result of teacher participation in the program.