You may or may not be familiar with the Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) at IUPUI and our Discovering the Science of the Environment (DSE) program. The goal of the DSE program is to provide/enhance experiential environmental science education for middle school and high school students in central Indiana. To accomplish this goal, the CEES education team travels to schools throughout the region, providing programs that cover a range of environmental science topics. Because CEES is a water resource center, water quality testing and investigations of aquatic habitats have been emphasized, but the program covers a range of ecology, environmental science, earth science, and energy topics. The program is provided free of charge to interested schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ended (at least temporarily) the traveling-to-schools aspect of the program. Consequently, CEES is considering how we can revamp the program to better serve the needs of science teachers at this time. To make this determination, we need your imput: what do science teachers need to enhance science education in their classrooms, and how can CEES best help?
Your input will also help the Center evaluate the utility of it's current DSE program model and determine whether that model should continue to be used going forward post-pandemic. Basically, we've been wondering how helpful the current model actually is for teachers. Does it work? Could it be made better? Is there something else CEES could be doing that would be more useful in supporting middle school and high school science education?
Geographic reach is also up for consideration. Should we restrict program activities to central Indiana? If teachers prefer assistance that can be accomplished virtually, or involves teacher professional development, there is no reason to limit the DSE program to central Indiana. Hence, input from teachers outside central Indiana is welcome.
DSE program history
At its inception in 2006/2007, the DSE program placed a strong emphasis on technology and the introduction of that technology to students. We used a trailer equipped with state-of-the-art computers with touch-screen technology, wifi access, and GIS mapping capability, and students were provided with LabQuest devices that allowed sampling of many different environmental variables (temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, etc.) simply by swapping out probes on the devices. Programs ran for three days: day 1 was devoted to teaching students how to use the equipment and explaining the goal(s) of the project; on day 2, students collected data; day 3 was for data analysis and presentation.
At the time, the program was very "cutting edge" - CEES provided access to equipment and resources (such as Google Earth) that most schools did not have. Today, most cell phones are more powerful than the computers we used (and have better touch screen capabilities), and many of the programs/platforms to which CEES provided access are now widely and freely available (at least in a modified form). Additionally, classroom goals and demands on time have changed since 2006. The luxury of having three days to devote to something outside the standard curriculum seems to be very much a thing of the past. In short, times have changed, and so it is time to bring CEES's education activities into alignment with the needs of the teachers and students they serve.
So the question is: How can CEES best help you, the teachers, meet your classroom goals and enhance science education in your classrooms?
What might changes look like?
Traditional DSE programs—Does the original DSE program model still work? Would a three-day program at your school be feasible?
Traditional-modified DSE programs—Does a modified version of the old DSE program model work? Would having someone from CEES visit your class for a one-day program that fit within a normal class period be beneficial? CEES could provide materials and background information so that teachers could prepare students in advance, then a facilitator from CEES would come to the classroom to run the lesson/lab.
Fieldtrip DSE programs—The DSE program was designed to use nature as the classroom. Consequently, it relied on schools having natural areas such as streams, ponds, fields, or forests on the school property. Not all schools have ready access to natural areas. Would a field trip model work better? Should CEES arrange for sites to be used as "land labs" and DSE programs would occur during class field trips to these sites. A dedicated field trip day would allow for more time to be spent on the DSE program activity.
Teacher Professional Development—Rather than having someone else come in to present a lesson to your class for you, would teachers be better served by a professional development program that provided hands-on training so that teachers would feel more confident about presenting the material in their own classrooms? To that end, what is the best time frame for professional development? One or two week sessions during summer break (or other intercession periods)? Shorter (one day or evening) sessions during the school year?
Ask an expert—Would it be beneficial to have a subject matter expert available (via Zoom or in person) to talk to your students about a particular topic? CEES could arrange for research scientists (Center staff or IUPUI faculty) to be available.
Long term studies—Would you be interested in having your students do a long-term project that involved repeat visits from CEES personnel? This type of data collection could take many forms: seasonal biodiversity surveys (to compare across seasons), weekly stream/pond monitoring, using the scientific method (design an experiment and carry it out - this could be very structured or very free form), etc.
Other Ideas—Are there other ways in which CEES could support science education in your classroom? Please tell us!
What topics are of greatest interest?
What are the topics that you would like to/need to cover in your classes? Are there topics you want to cover that are outside your comfort zone? Are there topics for which you just don't have a good hands-on activity to help illustrate the concept for your students?
The survey below includes a list of topics that have been covered in past DSE programs. Please let us know if these topics are still relevant to what you need to cover in class. Also let us know if there are topics that are not on the list that for which you would like assistance.
CEES needs to know what you need to help support you in the classroom. Please take the time to fill out the survey below. If you have any questions, would like more information, or just have general information you would like to share, please contact Victoria Schmalhofer, Assistant Director of CEES, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your assistance in helping the Center to improve its education outreach program.