By Teachers, For Teachers
There are only so many discovery science lessons I can teach my students in the confines of my classroom.
Luckily, I found a way to allow my class to explore beyond the classroom walls by collaborating with real world science professionals.
Our Science Classroom Adventure
Last spring, my students and I had a fantastic classroom experience. We worked with a marine scientist who was traveling on a research cruise off the coast of South Africa. Through blog posts he told us about what he was doing and why. He discussed many things with my class, including describing the equipment and the ship and including photos to help my students understand the scientific process in action.
This marine scientist even took us beyond the coast. When his research cruise wrapped up, he "took us along" on his adventures exploring the South African countryside. My students were able to ask questions and receive answers within a day or so. The scientist shared with us the story of his career in science, and what his day-to-day life looks like.
This was a remarkably engaging experience for my students. Many of them commented on how much they learned, not just about ocean currents, but also about the life and work of real scientists. The entire blogging project would not have been possible without one critical bit of serendipity: the scientist was my best friend from high school.
When he and I presented our experience at the state science teachers conference this past November, I learned that there are lots of similar opportunities available to science teachers if you know where to look. These programs that seek to pair up professional scientists and engineers with teachers and students can serve to promote science careers, encourage students to work hard in science classes, and advance the status of science in our society.
Making Science Connections Outside the Classroom
There are several organizations whose goal is to connect scientists with educators for projects like the one my students participated in.
Most science research grants funded by the National Science Foundation require an outreach/education component. Grant writers must include goals for sharing their discoveries with the public, often through education agencies like schools. Through this site, you can search for NSF-funded grants in your area and contact the lead investigators to inquire about outreach opportunities, which are funded through extra money from the grant.
The North Carolina Science, Math, and Technology Education Center offers a Teacher Link Program. The goal is to connect the state's science, math, and technology experts to the classrooms of North Carolina. Information is available on the website, including how to register as either one of the professionals or as a class.
The National Lab Network is a great resource for teachers to create memorable science experiments involving volunteers, community members, scientists, and engineers. As quoted on their website, "when an educator posts a project, our system will help them get the resources needed to bring that project to fruition."
Do you have other ideas to engage real world science into your classroom? Share in the comments section!