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August 18, 2005



Thirty teachers from primary, middle and high schools in urban school districts in the Philadelphia area joined Bryn Mawr and Haverford faculty members and students at the 15th annual Bryn Mawr College Summer Institutes for K-12 Teachers this summer. One two-week session met daily from July 11 to 22; a second followed from July 25 to Aug. 5. Participants in both sessions, as well as more than 20 additional Philadelphia area educators, participated in a Minisymposium on K-16 Collaborations on July 29 to share perspectives on how to enhance science and mathematics education throughout the curriculum and at all levels of the educational enterprise.

The first two-week session, titled "Brain and Behavior: Implications for Education," was directed by Paul Grobstein, professor of biology and the director of the College's Center for Science in Society. Participants discussed recent findings on the organization and development of the nervous system and their implications for educational theory and practice. Interactive materials demonstrations, many drawn from the Web and suitable for use in classrooms, were used extensively. Kim Cassidy, associate professor of psychology, and Earl Thomas, professor of psychology, provided guest lectures. Participants also spent time creating Web materials for use in their own class, with the assistance of Ann Dixon '83, Webmaster of the Serendip Web site, and undergraduates Rebekah Baglini '07, Yaena Park '05 and Kate Shiner '06.

The second session, "Making Sense of Change: Hands-On Science Throughout the Curriculum," was led by Anne Dalke, senior lecturer in English and coordinator of the Program in Gender and Sexuality, and Wil Franklin, laboratory instructor in biology. Participants were introduced to and helped develop teaching exercises and tools that present science as "a general process of question-asking, intuition-testing and story-revising that all of us engage in daily," rather than as a highly specialized canon of knowledge. Dalke, Franklin, Grobstein and Cassidy all contributed presentations, as did Bryn Mawr's Don Barber, assistant professor of geology, Liz McCormack, associate professor of physics, Haverford's Terry Newirth, a chemist, and Haverford's J.D. Dougherty, a computer scientist.

Participants were uniformly enthusiastic about the institutes. "The professional development provided by my school district cannot compare to this Institute," one participant wrote on a post-Institute evaluation form. "I have learned more and will attempt more than I have ever learned in a 'how-to test' or classroom-management professional activity. The Institute is more alive and will be used by me in my classroom." Another said, "Teach this material to all teacher candidates early in the preparation. It really changes how I perceive students. I wish this had happened much earlier." "This institute is not a 'one shot deal.' ... Access to content, participant reflections and practices are relevant and can be incorporated in the classroom and schools as a whole" said a third.

Bryn Mawr participants were equally enthusiastic. "The Institute is a way for me to test my understandings of the brain and education, and develop new ones," Grobstein said. "Working with the K-12 teachers, this year as in the past, is a wonderful opportunity to interact with people who have experiences and ideas that help me see what makes sense and what doesn't in my own thinking, to 'get it less wrong.'" Yaena Park, a sophomore biology major who assisted in the Institute, reported on her excitement at being "part of the process" of "continuous and contagious change happening in science classes and the education system."

All participants intend to continue working together during the school year, using the Institute online forum and Web-development projects as a foundation for continuing collaboration.

Both the summer institutes and the minisymposium are funded by a grant to Bryn Mawr College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and are supported by the College's Center for Science in Society as well as the Bryn Mawr/Haverford program "K-16 Collaborations in Science and Mathematics Education." Teachers who participate receive a stipend and a development grant to implement and report on curriculum changes resulting from the Institute experience.


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