2011 Annual Science Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: Telling Your Story: Workshops to Promote Scientist-Teacher Partnerships

Project Progress

The Telling Your Story program aims to form collaborations between research scientists and K-12 teachers that will result in ongoing classroom visits by scientists, and lab visits by teachers and their students. The program brings together scientists and K-12 educators in a workshop that lets each group learn about, and from, the other. Scientists are taught effective communication skills appropriate for K-12 audiences, and work with teachers to develop ideas and formats for classroom visits. The workshop helps to create personal connections that foster lasting relationships.
The goal of the Telling Your Story program is threefold: 1) Create connections between local scientists, including paleontologists and geoscientists, and K-12 teachers. 2) Provide skills to scientists that they can take into K-12 classroom environments. 3) Expose K-12 teachers to current research in the natural sciences.

The workshop focuses on getting scientists to tell the stories of their lives – not just of the scientific content they work on. The main portion of the workshop is spent in one-on-one or small group discussion between teachers and scientists where the teachers help the scientists hone their skills in communicating ideas to K-12 audiences and scientists share their content knowledge with the teachers.
The first TYS workshop was run on February 9th, 2011. Thirteen K-12 teachers, 7 paleontology and earth science graduate students, 4 post docs, 1 faculty member, and 1 research associate participated in the workshop. Project outcomes were assessed through a post-workshop survey of all participants and by a follow-up survey given 4 months after the workshop when classroom visits had taken place. A second workshop was run in October 2011 for 27 teachers and 26 graduate students and post docs from across the natural sciences. Evaluation of this second workshop is ongoing.
Materials are available from E/PO lead Phoebe Cohen for others to emulate the TYS workshop in their own communities. Materials include handouts, draft agendas, a powerpoint presentation, evaluation materials for both the workshop and the classroom, and additional resources and planning materials.

In general, results from the first workshop survey show that the TYS program made scientists feel more confident about going into a classroom and increased the likelihood that they would do so. For teachers, the workshop greatly increased their confidence in communicating with scientists and also greatly increased their desire to have a scientist come into their classroom. We plan to continue to run TYS workshops in the future based on our positive results from the first two sessions.

Quotes from teachers about the February 9th workshop:
“This was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to bring the scientist into my classroom! I learned how to better interact with a scientist, I [feel] have more in common with them.”
“Today was exactly what I had hoped it would be, an opportunity to connect with scientists who are willing and eager even to speak with students. “
“I learned some really interesting science from my talks with scientists. I also broadened my thinking about what a scientists is or does and about who I could potentially invite for a visit.”
Quotes from teachers after classroom visits:
“The impact of having a “real scientist” visit the classroom simply cannot be underestimated. My 4th grade students were inspired, energized, and continue to talk about the first visit to this day.”
Quotes from scientists about the workshop:
“I learned what challenges teachers face on a daily basis and what kind of activities would be the most effective in a classroom setting”
“Living in my science “bubble” it was just good (and interesting) to hear about the whole world of K-12 teaching that I know nothing about.”
“I learned about how science is being offered in schools and got some great tips about how to do a visit to a school.”
Quotes from scientists after classroom visits:
“The students were extremely curious and voiced many questions about the science and about my career as a scientist. It was fun and rewarding to engage with them – to find out what they are most interested in knowing.”
“It was a great experience to share my work with local teachers and students, and I enjoyed interacting with others outside my immediate work group. The students were so curious, and it was a lot of fun to answer their questions about science and to see how enthusiastic they were.”

Post doc Lindsay Hayes smiles while discussing her research with a local teacher

Teachers and scientists discuss how to design effective in-class demonstrations

The January 2011 TYS Crew!

Survey data from February 2011 TYS Workshop, n=12

Survey data from February 2011 TYS Workshop, n=12