Teachers and school districts are being charged and challenged to shift the way science has typically been presented in a classroom. We as a museum, have to be cognizant of these processes so we can ensure that our programs are modeling the best practices in education. After all, we are a partner in this work. From the top down, our exhibits, events, programs and opportunities onsite and off must have a commitment to drive inquiry in the most relevant of ways. Together with science educators, we empower kids to see themselves as science-capable, as doers of science, rather than simply only learners of science.
On the heels of two exceptional collaborative events, the EcoTarium has a lot to be proud of as a collaborator with science educators. During the week of October 21, MA STEM Week was organized by the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council in partnership with the state’s nine Regional STEM Networks. The annual statewide effort aims to boost the interest, awareness, and ability for all learners to envision themselves in STEM education and employment opportunities. The EcoTarium hosted a variety of STEM-centric activities and drop-in programs for guests throughout the designated week (and many others). Our education team also joined the WPI STEM Education Center, to lead free professional development training for more than 40 preK-8 teachers, librarians and community-based educators from the Central MA region. The focus of this workshop was to design a model in relation to science and engineering practices. Using the EcoTarium’s natural history collections as a way to evaluate how models change over time, and the importance of updating models with current information, attendees were challenged to create their own models using a real world example (i.e. the Loon and the current challenge of habitat loss due to climate change). Takeaways from the workshop included not only a wonderful opportunity to develop new, unique modeling activities to introduce into curriculum, but the valuable experience of sharing resources and finding common ground among our community of educators devoted to the same mission.
Recently, the science education standards were updated and adopted by the Commonwealth of MA. (Next Generation Science) Three distinct dimensions were identified as key to learning science. Last month, we were thrilled and honored to have hosted the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) for a two-day workshop that attracted more than 50 science teachers representing a diverse set of states, to learn how to develop a deep understanding of science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts: the three distinct dimensions of the framework for K-12 science education. Ted Willard, assistant executive director of science standards for NSTA, presented a comprehensive workshop on how to incorporate phenomenon-based teaching and learning methods that aim to create motivating, unforgettable learning experiences for students.
It was so powerful to evaluate our programs from the perspective of the museum as a learner-centered space, and to realize that we have done a great job at identifying the core ideas and implement them. Particularly looking at the concept of sound as a phenomena, the workshop was well-matched with EcoTarium programs that we offer onsite and on the road like Making Waves: Sound and Light and our components in the City Science exhibit. The workshop was very school-focused work, so to have held the training in our science museum, truly demonstrated the intersection of our role as educators out of the classroom. Essentially, our whole community serves as an ever-changing model, ripe with opportunities to teach, engage and learn.