Science Education Institute Sets Teachers On Path To Leadership

RAHWAY— The Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE), dedicated to ensuring access to the highest quality science instruction for every student, is forging ahead with its Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction at a time when education budgets are shrinking and many teachers face an uncertain future.

The Academy, MISE’s signature K-12 professional development initiative, is a three-year program that brings together teachers, principals and district administrators to improve their practice, develop tools and techniques to make science come alive in the classroom, and strengthen science instruction in their schools and districts for years to come.


“At a time of drastic budget cuts and economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to offer educators the resources they need to engage students for a lifetime of learning science,” said Dr. Carlo Parravano, MISE’s executive director. “MISE, with support from Merck, is proud to offer this professional development opportunity to ensure the sustainability of high-quality science education.”

First introduced in 2008, the Academy brings together school and district-based teams from Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden, Rahway and Readington Township in New Jersey and North Penn in Pennsylvania to create a strong, collaborative community of science educators. The program’s in-depth, three-year approach supports educators as they implement Academy methodologies and techniques in their schools and reflect, reinforce and build upon them as they progress through their careers.

“My students no longer look at science as something they learn on Wednesdays and Thursdays,” said Kathleen Williams, teacher at School # 9 in Linden. “One day I overheard my students discussing why worms couldn’t remain in the ground after a heavy rain. They each had their own ideas and facts and were learning even more by working together. Science has become a part of their daily thinking.”

Each year of the Academy highlights a unique science theme as a vehicle to discuss student learning and guide teachers in their intellectual growth. First-year participants explore their vision of effective science education by engaging in hands-on investigations involving air-pressure. Second-year participants examine students’ understanding of scientific concepts using the theme of the Earth-Moon-Sun system.

Third-year participants learn how to work as school-based inquiry teams in order to sustain learning beyond the Academy. Work highlights natural selection and the nature of science with experiences such as Predator, which simulates predator-prey interactions in a natural ecosystem.

“Year three of the Academy sets science educators on the path of career-long leadership,” said Dr. Parravano. “Now more than ever, when schools are losing valuable professional development resources, it is critical for educators to sustain and lead others in implementing great teaching practices.”

Held in Princeton, the Academy’s intensive week-long summer sessions are led by educators, scientists, education researchers and MISE staff. Educators who began their Academy work last year take part in their second summer session July 19-23. The Academy’s inaugural cohort of teachers returns for their third and last summer session August 2-6.

Pictured from left to right are: Sabina Garbowski, Kara-Lynne Frees-Spoganetz, and Peter Spoganetz, teachers at Linden School #1. They are engaged in an activity featuring the Earth-Moon-Sun system to examine students’ understanding of scientific concepts. Photo credit: MISE.

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