Roosevelt Middle School, Roosevelt, New York
Roosevelt Middle School of Roosevelt Union Free School District in New York wanted to create science-based curricula spanning all core subjects. School administrators decided the best way to accomplish this was by developing science-focused PD for teachers.
In 2013, the school won a Math Science Partnership, a two-year grant from the New York State Education Department, which was later extended to three years. Under the agreement, the school received $300,000 per year. Administrators annually have to analyze student data, determine goals and send plans to the state for funding approval.
On initial approval, curricula were developed around three themes: “Climate Change, Sustainability and the Long Island Environment,” “Water and the Quality of Life on Long Island” and “Where Are We in the Universe?”
The school chose to work with Hofstra University for the initiative. “Hofstra has a great reputation for partnering with districts on different projects, and they are one of the better universities in the area,” says Desmond Poyser, director of technology.
Later, CulturePlay, a team of industry experts who provide technology workshops, joined the effort to provide PD in natural science. They conferred with Hofstra University faculty as well as Roosevelt Middle teachers and building administrators to set goals and agendas.
Hofstra’s PD sessions took place primarily after school at Roosevelt Middle. Teachers participated in hands-on exercises to improve measurement, data collection and specimen-identification skills. They learned how to use Stellarium for teaching astronomy, online software for the dynamics of planetary bodies, and Google Earth for geography, geology, distance and topography.
Hofstra faculty also hosted teacher field trips on Saturdays and after school to places such as the Cradle of Aviation Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Hayden Planetarium, and local beaches to observe rocks and minerals. Teachers then created project-based lesson plans designed around these outings, which they would incorporate into field trips with students.
Additionally, Hofstra’s Geology Department provided two six-hour curriculum development workshops on Saturdays at its Long Island campus for 13 science teachers and three building leaders.
Other PD sessions took place during the school day in the classroom and focused on how to use equipment, such as laptops, 3-D printers, tablet apps and kits.
A Saturday ScienceApps Academy is held twice per month for students, where they can take part in various STEAM activities, such as coding, robotics, 3D design and printing, and virtual projects. Parents are also encouraged to participate. The district transports students with special needs.
In the multidisciplinary “Where Are We in the Universe?” curriculum, students learn about the colors of planets and stars for art; the mythologies of the sun, stars and universe for language arts; the link between scientific discovery and the concept of the person for social studies; the distance of planets in standard form and scientific notation for math; the properties of planets for science; and simulating model solar systems using programming code for technology class.
During the program, teachers have the option of using workshop hours for college credit or PD credit. On average, teachers received approximately 115 hours of credit.
“These benefits provide incentive for teachers to increase participation and motivation,” says Poyser.
Over the next two years, Poyser expects to see an increase in student achievement and teacher collaboration in lesson planning. He also expects teachers to become more creative in their use of technology in the classroom.