Collaborative project aims to give middle school teachers science in context

Teaching involves many things, including the need for the teacher to sometimes be the student.

This summer, a collaborative three-year program begins to provide 24 southwest Kansas science teachers and three paraprofessionals the opportunity to increase knowledge in physics, biology, chemistry, and earth and space science.

Workshops are scheduled in Liberal from July 19-23 and in Garden City from July 26-30. Both workshops are from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

In March of 2004, the project between Garden City USD 457, Liberal USD 480 and Fort Hays State University was funded by the Kansas Board of Regents through an Improving Teacher Quality Grant written by Kathleen Sanders, an assistant professor in FHSU's Department of Teacher Education. Funding of $65,000 per year was received.

The program's objective is to increase middle school science teachers' knowledge in physics, biology, chemistry, and earth and space science; in science and technology resources available in southwest Kansas and how to utilize these resources in the classroom; and in evidence-based teaching strategies to deliver science content to middle school students.

"With no child left behind, the big buzz in education is having highly qualified educators. This will help build qualified teachers and meet Kansas guidelines for teaching or add to knowledge that teachers have already in science," said Sanders.

The program has enrolled 15-17 teachers. First priority is given to applicants from the Garden City and Liberal school districts who were invited to participate in the project because they met a high need.

"Southwest Kansas is a unique culture with specific needs," said Sanders.

Participants over the course of three years are required to attend a weeklong summer workshop scheduled in their local hometowns. During the academic year they will be presented with reading materials, from which they must put together a unit of study for their students. Sanders hopes to have mentorship interaction with teachers each semester for two half-day Saturdays through interactive television or through personal visits.

"This probably is going to be more interactive-useful information than book-level information. It will be applicable information they can use immediately," Sanders said,

Participants in the program receive many benefits, including a stipend of $60 per day for teachers and $30 a day for paraprofessionals. Instructors will develop a teaching portfolio full of appropriate materials and resources associated with science content that can be immediately applied in classrooms.

Participants will also have the option of receiving three college credit hours each year in one of the sciences, beginning with physics for the 2004-2005 academic year. Sanders said that, upon completion of the program, certificates would be available to reinforce participant needs as professionals and verify the time they have put into the program.

Sanders said she is very excited about the collaborative effort and networking involved with the program. Two FHSU colleges, the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Technology, are involved, including many departments within the sciences.

"Fort Hays State University has a lot to offer southwest Kansas. I'm thrilled. This is an opportunity for us to expand our visibility and promote Fort Hays in such a positive way. It is a benefit for the teachers but also a benefit for us at Fort Hays State University to get to know how to better serve the needs in southwest Kansas. It's mutually beneficial," said Sanders.

She said the networking involved could be an avenue to put a face with a name during the interview and hiring process of FHSU graduates.

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