Exploratorium training program accepting more teachers

August 12, 2013 8:40:18 PM PDT
California is one of 26 states that have joined forces to improve science education. A group came up with big changes on how science is taught from kindergarten to high school. California's board of education is expected to adopt the new standards this fall and they will most likely be implemented the following school year. But some teachers are not waiting around.

You may know San Francisco's Exploratorium as a hands-on museum, but it's also a cutting edge training site for teachers.

The Exploratorium has run a summer training program for science teachers for more than 25 years.

The program is so popular the staff has to turn away two of every three teachers who apply.

However, now the Exploratorium has moved to a new larger building, so they'll be able to accept a lot more teachers.

The timing is perfect because California is getting brand new science standards for all grades and teachers have to learn to put them into action.

"We were so happy to see the new next generation science standards because this is what the Exploratorium has been doing forever," Senior Scientist Paul Doherty said.

The new standards call for more hands-on learning, with interactive lessons. The focus is on making sure students have the knowledge and critical thinking skills they will need for 21st century jobs.

"Finally, the emphasis isn't going to be as much on what scientist know, but what they do," Teacher Institute Director Linda Shore said.

That could mean expensive equipment and supplies, but the Exploratorium is showing teachers how to create meaningful experiments with everyday materials and free resources they can find online.

There is a website that allows users to make stop action animation. The camera in the computer is taking still pictures as the teachers pose for all kinds of crazy movies. It's silly and it's science.

"They are modeling kinematics and physics. They are doing constant velocity, acceleration and deceleration," Doherty said.

The new science standards also include engineering, a new challenge for a lot of teachers.

"I might look at something and wonder as a scientist myself, how does that work? An engineer looks at it and goes, how can I make that better?" Shore said.

Denise Torrisi teaches junior high in Fremont. She's been to the Exploratorium Teacher Institute before and now she's back to get engineering instruction. There is an experiment that involves solar cells and little motors that spin.

"It's like a science camp for teachers to learn, to explore, to get rejuvenated for the new school year," she said.

The teachers attend for free and even get a small stipend.

Although they are supposed to be learning themselves as soon a child arrives, some can't resist switching right back to teacher mode.

For information about applying to the Teacher Institute jsut go to their website.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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