GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 39-12
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


MACFADDEN, Bruce, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, SW 34th Street and Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611 and GRANT, Claudia, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611,

Little is known about the impact that authentic international research experiences can have on STEM teachers. Here we describe a program involving 50 in-service teachers from California, Florida, Ohio, and New Mexico. Since 2012 they have worked in Panama alongside paleontologists and geologists to collect fossils and associated geological samples to advance research on: (1) the ancient biodiversity of the New World tropics; and (1) the dynamics of the Great American Biotic Interchange (GABI). Each of five RET cohorts have participated in a professional development model over a six-month period that includes: (1) a pre-trip orientation; (2) two-week-long Panama capstone experience; and (3) post-trip wrap-up. We initially concentrated on high-school and middle-school STEM (biology, chemistry, earth science, and environmental science) teachers, but have since also included K-5 teachers interested in science self-efficacy as well as an art teacher (to promote STEAM) and English language arts teacher (to promote integration with Common Core). During years 2 through 5 we have included a “teacher-leader” from the previous year to mentor new participants, as well as university student role model visits in the K-12 classrooms. Consistent with NSF’s RET program goals, outcomes of the Panama project have included discoveries that advance research, dissemination via talks at professional meetings and papers published in peer-reviewed journals, and about 50 lesson plans aligned to appropriate state standards (e.g., NGSS). Evaluation indicates increased content self-efficacy, career rejuvenation, effective teacher-scientist partnerships, sustained networking, and broad impacts on K-12 student learners, including those from underserved communities. Teachers reflect that at a time when we are globally connected in the 21st century, there is no substitute for the intellectual and cultural immersion that is afforded by an international research experience like this one from Panama.