Science Leadership Academy Sends Teachers Back To School

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RAHWAY—Earlier this month, educators from Rahway and neighboring communities spent a week at the Merck Institute Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction in Princeton to become better science teachers.

Martin Goldman, a chemistry teacher at Rahway High School, said that the program was extremely helpful because it exposed him to new teaching techniques and allowed him to interact with other educators to share ideas.

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“The Academy taught me how to continually involve students in asking and answering questions about science,” said Anjanette Highsmith, a science teacher at Rahway Middle School. “Students feel engaged and empowered when they learn through experimentation rather than getting answers from a textbook.”

The Merck Institute for Science Education introduced the Academy in 2008 with a three-year structure including a week-long intensive residential summer session each year and meetings throughout the academic year.

During the recently-completed session, program facilitators modeled teaching techniques through lessons about eclipses and phases of the moon. Goldman pointed out that the value of the program came from learning new ways to teach science while exploring science content.

“As a chemistry teacher, I don’t often discuss the phases of the moon in the classroom,” Goldman noted, “but the teaching methods are extremely helpful to all science teachers.”

One of the teaching techniques that Goldman mentioned was the “talk move.” Instead of relying on a teacher-centered instruction model, “talk moves” are questions designed to involve students in the learning process. For example, if a student asked the teacher a question about material that had already been covered, the teacher would ask another student to explain the concept. By shifting the emphasis to peer instruction, students become more involved in the learning process, Goldman said.

“Science teachers are eager to make their subject more meaningful to students,” said Carlo Parravano, MISE’s executive director.  “The Academy helps to make effective science instruction a reality by facilitating collaboration of educators to develop tools and techniques that will improve their practice and make science alive in the classroom.”


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