- Teachers expressed interest in increased opportunities to involve students in inquiry
- Also expressed interest in direct connections with working scientists
- Our desire to encourage more thinking about systems and interrelationships rather than disconnected chunks of scientific knowledge
- Given support in the form of PD focused on the process of inquiry, coupled with technical support WRT a particular problem focus (Hg in the environment), teachers would incorporate more project-oriented investigations in their teaching
- Direct connection to a working scientist would matter in terms of teacher confidence and student response
- Teachers would participate in an Web-based community of practice to share experiences, concerns, and so on
- Successful use of field based inquiry by some teachers would encourage other teachers to adopt similar practices
- Participation by high school (primarily grade 9 and 10) teachers from a number of Maine communities.
- Summer workshop that involved teachers in a multi-day inquiry including formulation of their own questions, research design, data collection, analysis, and presentation of findings
- General focus during the school year on mercury in the environment
- Participation from a scientist (Dr. Sarah Nelson) who liked working with students
- No strong focus on a particular research question … instead, focus on students and teachers developing their own questions
- Collection of samples that would be analyzed for total mercury content (THg).
- Substantial investment in preparing support materials
- Investment in Web-based community for information sharing among teachers and between the scientist and the students.
- Culminating poster presentations by students.
What We Learned
- The scientist’s participation was viewed as valuable, even essential, by teachers and students
- The project was very time consuming for the scientist
- Students and teachers had a lot of difficulty formulating good questions
- There was little evidence that the work we did with teachers transformed colleagues’ practice
- But, for a small number of teachers, the experience was transformative
- Most teachers did not much use the Web-based community, but liked getting together in person
- Most teachers made minimal use of the support materials
- The students had almost NO idea of how to work with data. They produced graphs that were unrelated to their question — as if the graph was an end itself that had no further purpose. More troubling: most of the teachers did not have a perspective that caused them to see this as a problem, and when the problem was pointed out, did not have pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and, in some cases, content knowledge(CK) that they could use to address it.
- The posters were more successful than PowerPoint as a way for students to share what they learned and to provide evidence of learning
- Evidence of surprisingly high mercury levels in biota in some ponds and streams.
- Evidence of substantial spatial variation in THg.