scientific literacy

David W. Kramer kramer.8 at OSU.EDU
Wed Feb 3 18:29:53 EST 1999


This begins as a response to Janice Glime's excellent posting but goes on
to tell more about our program.  I did this because I have received many
inquiries.

Janice,
I share your concerns about the points I raised earlier!  Integration IS
very important.  However, in my INTRODUCTORY PLANT BIOLOGY CLASS FOR
NON-MAJORS here at OSU just this week I have talked about the technique of
pointillism in art (why leaves look green even though the chlorophyll is in
chloroplasts, not dissolved throughout the cells), history (What was
happening in our part of the world in 1753 when Linnaeus wrote Species
Plantarum?), home construction (hardwood vs. softwood), etc.  Good teachers
always integrate information in an effort to "connect" with the learner, to
expand on what they already know.  By their training elementary teachers
might be even better at integrating knowledge from several fields but I
would still argue that the instruction in math, science, language arts,
social studies, etc. will be better when taught by a specialist.  The
problem now is that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite
direction... away from solid knowledge of a subject.  If it is true that
the students don't see don't see "how physics or mathematics apply to
biology and even challenge the usefulness of chemistry," then I don't think
those subjects were well taught.  I would still argue for integration
taught by specialists rather than science taught by generalists.

In regard to science looking hard because it is taught by a specialist....
this would not be a problem if ALL subjects were taught by specialists...
which I would advocate.

Another argument against my plan was offered by a friend, an excellent
elementary teacher with whom I have presented several workshops.  She
thinks the children are too fragile (not her word) to be confronted by
several teachers in one day.  "They need a Mother!"  Well, they need all
kinds of support!  Let me be their Father when they come to my science
class, let the math teacher be their Aunt, let the history teacher be their
Grandfather, etc.  What if they have a personality conflict with the
generalist elementary teacher with whom they must cope all day long!?
Better to have a change of scene.

I really like your penultimate paragraph of suggestions where you gently
tell me how my workshop could be improved.  EXACTLY!  And those are some of
the changes I will make for this summer.  However, the summer workshop will
give them time to go to the library, surf the web, etc. and write a much
better hands-on unit than I could write.  Furthermore, they are much more
likely to actually implement the unit if it is THEIRS!  SO... I will be
giving them some "canned" activities (the ones the teachers wrote last
summer) but will also require them (working as a school team) to write some
new activities.  Our ultimate goal is to put these activity units on a
website so they can be shared by teachers around the world.

I should have said, too, (because it's a good suggestion for others) that I
am not doing this alone.  I am working with a chemist (she teaches a
"Science is Fun" workshop in physical science for elementary teachers), a
science educator (he does two education courses for them on
"developmentally appropriate education" and "authentic assessment"), and
the coordinator of our math/science consortium (who teaches them how to use
instructional technology: scanners, digital cameras, flexcams, HyperStudio,
spreadsheets, word processing, etc., etc.)  We've been told that this team
of scientists and educators working together to produce a science training
program for teachers is VERY RARE.  I'd like to encourage others to try
it... the faculty members found it very stimulating to work with one
another and we learned a lot by sitting in on each other's classes.

Each teacher takes 5 graduate courses over Spring Quarter, Summer, Autumn
Quarter for a total of 13 credit hours.  When they apply, they must agree
to take the entire package.  We are seeing some amazing results.  For
example, the teachers actually are implementing hands-on science in their
classrooms and are beginning to "convert" their colleagues who haven't yet
taken our "Teacher Academy" as we call it.  Yes, each school team took home
lots of equipment (dissecting microscope, electronic balance, scanner,
digital camera, flexcam, software, etc.) ... everything they need to do all
the activities they learned.  It's a good program for the teachers in other
ways, too... they get 13 graduate credits FREE and this is enough to put
them onto the next plateau of their school salary scale!  Of course, it's
also a lot of work for them and a large commitment of time.  Some of them
drove 50+ miles one way to come to class!

Our main problem is finding funding... our budget was nearly $250,000 to
train this first group of 43 teachers.  We got funding from state subsidy
of tuition (but didn't collect tuition from the teachers... it was free to
them), a training grant from a regional professional math/science training
organization, and a contribution (approximately $3,000 from each of the 9
schools that sent a team).  The rest was picked up by Ohio State.  UGH!  IF
ANY OF YOU KNOW OF POSSIBLE SOURCES OF FUNDING, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

*********************
David W. Kramer, Ph.D.
Asst. Prof. of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
Ohio State University at Mansfield
1680 University Drive
Mansfield, OH  44906-1547
Phone:  (419) 755-4344      FAX:  (419) 755-4367
e-mail:  kramer.8 at osu.edu



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