CPS Teachers Hone STEM Education Skills at Science Club Summer Camp

Paige Edmiston
August 23, 2017

“This is why I can’t wear green!” laughed meteorologist Tracy Butler. Monika Roszkowski, a 3rd-grade teacher at Cameron Elementary, stood in front of a green screen in the ABC-7 newsroom. She watched her green sweater disappear; in its place, a map of the Chicago suburbs.

Earlier this summer, Butler gave Monika and seven other 3rd-grade Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers a behind-the-scenes tour of the ABC weather station. These teachers were part of Science Club Summer Camp’s Weather and Climate cohort. 

First piloted in 2016, Science Club Summer Camp (SC2) is a three-week, paid summer training and practicum program designed for 3rd-grade CPS teachers. The program builds teacher confidence and helps them incorporate science into their teaching. SC2 teachers spend three weeks with Science in Society and the SC2 master teachers.

The first week is spent on Northwestern’s downtown campus, exploring the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and learning a new science curriculum to bring back to their classroom. The Illinois State Board of Education adopted NGSS in 2014. With a focus on student-driven learning and hands-on investigations, the NGSS approach gives students a chance to think like scientists and engineers. However, the standards do require a radical shift in teaching – a shift which many teachers do not feel prepared to make without support. 

Science in Society, in collaboration with CPS, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, and Northwestern University, developed SC2 to give 3rd-grade CPS teachers the tools and training needed to incorporate NGSS into their teaching.

“For teachers who are already juggling so many things, switching to NGSS can be a challenge. But it is an essential step towards improving science education for kids,” said Science in Society’s Senior Program Coordinator Emily Mathews, a former CPS teacher and teacher professional development leader. “With its hands-on approach and practicum, SC2 is designed to support teachers in making the necessary pedagogical shifts called for in the NGSS.”

Each summer, SC2 teachers are organized into two cohorts to learn a specific NGSS-aligned curricular module: one group explores Forces and Interactions and the other Weather and Climate. Each cohort then has the opportunity to interact with scientists in fields related to their module (like meteorologist Tracy Butler).

After this week of intensive professional development, SC2 teachers practice their new curriculum modules with elementary students at the Boys & Girls Club. This unique practicum is an opportunity to test drive the NGSS approach with hands-on support and coaching from SC2’s science education experts.

 “The instructors are amazingly supportive and knowledgeable,” said Kim Bendig, a 3rd-grade teacher at John T. McCutcheon Elementary School who participated in SC2’s pilot. “SC2 provides teachers with a NGSS-aligned curriculum, which has been developed and reviewed by CPS students and teachers, and reminded me that NGSS is student-driven. Students should be developing the questions, progression, and learning. 

SC2 does not end with the three-week summer training program. Teachers meet throughout the year with master teachers and scientists to prepare for curriculum implementation, review successes and challenges in the classroom, and support one another. They also receive free curriculum kits to implement the module they practiced at SC2.

Science in Society received its second $1.2 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes for Health to support this work. The center plans to support two cohorts each summer for the next four years and will study the impacts of this practicum-based approach as part of an ongoing science education research study.

Learn more about Science Club Summer Camp here

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