Litchfield Elementary teachers among statewide science educators taking part in training program

Litchfield Elementary School, 255 W. Wigwam Blvd. [Mark Carlisle/Independent Newsmedia]

Science teachers have an important role in educating students trying to bridge the gap between scientific facts and theory and how those are interconnected with the world. To assist in developing skills to be successful in this task, the Arizona Science Teachers Association (ASTA), with funding from Arizona Public Service (APS) Foundation, has developed a new professional development program for teachers to learn how to create instructional units that appeal to their students while also making that real-world connection.

“A Deeper Dive: Constructing 3-Dimensional Units” is a new, two-year program in partnership with Arizona Department of Education and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. With newly-adopted science standards, educators will require in-depth professional development to learn how to create instructional units that implement three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices; crosscutting concepts; and disciplinary core ideas. One conceptual shift with the new state standards will require teachers to move instruction away from learning isolated facts and towards helping students construct knowledge and understanding about natural phenomena and processes.

Ten West Valley teachers are among the statewide educators participating in this professional development opportunity. Representing the Litchfield Elementary School District are Linda Hazelett, Loren McCullers, Alison Rodeheffer, Frances Siler and Yolanda Strachan. Representing the Peoria Unified School District are Christina Cox, Michael Guffy, Amy Lewis, Judy Meredith and Raymond Wilson.

One conceptual shift of “A Deeper Dive” with the new standards will require teachers to move their instruction from students just learning about science to students actively figuring out the natural and designed world around them by constructing explanations of phenomena.

“These new standards reflect current best practices in science education that require teachers to shift from just telling students about science to engaging students in figuring out scientific ideas,” Meg Gebert, ASTA president, stated. “Lessons must be engaging, relevant, and structured to support the students as they construct explanations of the world around them. This project will give teachers skills they need to construct units of instruction that will transform science education in Arizona.”

Recently, the inaugural class of 60 mid-level teachers were selected from across the state to take part in the first training. These teachers will be grouped in professional learning communities and participate in a variety of in-person and virtual trainings facilitated by a teacher leader, who will work with them throughout the year. Participants will create a 3D unit blueprint and develop multiple instructional sequences to form a science instructional unit. This will continually be evaluated and revised until published as state models.

In June 2020, participants will attend a two- and half-day training on assessment tools, which they would implement the following school year.

The $130,000 grant from APS Foundation will go directly to support curriculum development, teacher stipends, professional staff, and session materials for the two-year program. As the largest coalition of science educators in Arizona with a robust history of providing professional development to teachers in rural and urban communities, ASTA’s mission aligns closely with APS Foundation’s commitment to initiatives focused on building a stronger more STEM-literate workforce for the future.

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