Fermilab hosts a new kind of workshop for educators

An instructor from the BSCS delivers information and materials to the education leaders from Fermilab and Argonne. Photo: Reidar Hahn

An instructor from the BSCS delivers information and materials to the education leaders from Fermilab and Argonne. Photo: Reidar Hahn

For the first time, the Fermilab Office of Education and Public Outreach hosted a series of a new kind of professional development workshop — one where teachers played the roles not only of educator, but also student and curriculum designer. The events were aimed at providing new knowledge, tools and techniques for educators passionate about spreading STEM fields.

In total, 14 people attended the first workshop on Oct. 10, which was developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, or BSCS, a nonprofit organization focused on science teaching and learning. Participants included education program leaders from both the Fermilab Education Office and Argonne National Laboratory, along with teachers who serve as instructors for Fermilab teacher workshops.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop,” said Milton Harris, teacher at Clarendon Hills Middle School and program instructor at the Fermilab Beauty & Charm program, an activity-based science program for middle schoolers. “What I liked most was the focus on transformative teaching and learning as it relates to the NGSS.”

NGSS, or Next Generation Science Standards, is a multistate agreement to provide a benchmark for science education in schools.

The first of four sessions focused on developing and using models — one of the eight NGSS science and engineering practices.

During the workshop, representatives embedded participants in the workshop from multiple angles.

teachers engage in an education workshop

Attendees of the workshop collaborate and get involved in the activities on Oct. 10. Photo: Reidar Hahn

“The presenter really made us think about and envision what this would look like from the perspective of a student, a teacher and a professional development provider,” Harris said.

This first session was also designed to provide a platform for the attendees to discuss NGSS practices, as well as strategies for the most effective professional development. Further sessions were delivered each day of the week, until Oct. 13.

“The workshop was a unique opportunity for us to bring together our teacher leaders and our educational program leaders,” said Susan Dahl of the Fermilab Office of Education and co-organizer of the events. “They are experiencing NGSS learning as both a learner and as a teacher and, in doing so, can consider how they as professional development planners and providers can develop experiences for the teachers in our workshops and the students on our field trips.”

The experience for Fermilab’s teacher leaders was funded by the Fermilab Friends for Science Education, a not-for-profit organization that supports science education programs at Fermilab.

Fermilab’s Office of Education provides educational resources and support to a wide array of audiences, from the public to teachers to laboratory staff, in the pursuit of developing the STEM workforce and stimulating science literacy. Working with external institutes also engenders successful professional development.

“By including our education colleagues from Argonne, we can establish potential relationships between our areas of expertise,” Dahl said, “and see possibilities to work together to complement our work.”