Science Club Summer Camp blasts off!

Sara Grady
August 5, 2016

Science in Society kicked off its newest initiative, Science Club Summer Camp, July 11 on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. Based on the Science Club model of hands-on, inquiry-led STEM education, Science Club Summer Camp is specifically designed for elementary school teachers uncertain about incorporating science into their classrooms.

Participating Chicago Public Schools third-grade teachers spent three weeks with Northwestern scientists and experienced CPS science teachers. Over this time, they explored the new CPS science curriculum and the Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers learned about the shift to student-led investigations and new strategies to lead science-related discussions.

After a week of intensive, collaborative professional development on the Northwestern campus, teacher teams moved to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago for a hands-on practicum. For two weeks, this first cohort of seven teachers practiced the new approach to science teaching with 7- and 8-year-olds enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club summer camp.

With the support of their scientist and teacher mentors, the teachers guided youth through engaging investigations from the Forces & Interactions curriculum. This included challenging students to figure out how magnets exert force, and then apply their knowledge of magnets to engineer a simple magnetic levitating (or maglev) train.

Patty Whitehouse and Jennifer Lewin are both CPS teachers with a long track-record of innovative science learning. As CPS Master Teachers involved in the design and implementation of this project, they’ve been working with Science in Society and participating teachers all summer.

“This is a big shift in the science standards, where now the focus is on Science and Engineering Practices.” Says Whitehouse. “With Science Club Summer Camp, teachers not only learn about the new standards but have the opportunity to practice them. During the last week, the first group shared with us that they felt much more confident teaching science, especially because of the collaboration during the practicum. We’re excited to continue our collaborations in the fall."

The three-week program ended with a visit the Museum of Science & Industry to learn about ways to incorporate field trips into the curriculum.

This summer practicum will be followed by classroom visits and a professional learning community to help the teachers integrate their new practice into their classrooms. A second cohort of teachers began in August, focusing on the Weather & Climate curriculum. This second group recently visited the ABC 7 Newsroom to meet with Tracy Butler and learn about practical applications of meteorology. They will be running practica at the Boys and Girls Clubs later this month.

This new immersive and long-term professional development model was developed in collaboration by Science in Society, Chicago Public Schools, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago. The center 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 five years and will study the impacts of this practicum-based approach as part of a new science education research study.

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