Houston teachers and science trainers came out in force as we wrapped up our 2008 Hands-on Science Boot Camp tour. It’s not the first time that weather preempted a teacher training, but the severity of hurricane Ike impressed upon us the impact this storm had on the Houston area. It was amazing to see how quickly the businesses and people of Houston rebounded. Just two months earlier, the Sheraton North Houston had a foot of water running through the front lobby and today you’d never know that anything happened. Workshop participants arrived early and were ready to roll up their sleeves and do some science. The audience consisted of primarily K-5 teachers, but we also had a strong showing of early childhood professionals, some middle school teachers and a handful of informal science educators (presenters at museums and science outreach professionals). When asked what brought them to the workshop, many participants told us that they were looking for ways to spice-up their curriculum with more hands-on activities. Getting the students engaged in their own learning was at the top of the list for almost everyone.
Topic - Hands-on Science Boot Camp
Our workshop team always enjoys a trip to Dallas… especially when the workshop is at the Gaylord Texan. By now you’d think that the hotel would understand that velvet table cloths and brightly colored liquids probably are not a good mix. Nearly 250 teachers attended the Dallas Hands-on Science Boot Camp ranging from early childhood through high school (but the vast majority of teachers fell into the pre-K through 5th grade range). Before the workshop starts, I make it a point to talk to as many participants as possible and ask them what they expect to take away from the workshop. The Dallas teachers shared a common response… “I want to find ways to get my kids excited about science and engaged in their own learning.”
Shanna Morris from Little Elm, Texas attended the workshop because she wanted to find a way to make teaching science more fun for herself. “After 22 years in the classroom, I want to find a way to re-ignite my own spark for teaching science. If I’m having fun and learning, I believe that it will rub off on the kids.
The audience of teachers (PreK-Middle School) was especially lively during our Hands-on Science Boot Camp in Tampa. The turn-out was great with over 180 teachers packed into the ballroom at the Westin Hotel and each teacher had his or her own reasons for attending. One third grade teacher told me that her school had cut her science time down to less than an hour per week. She was told to “integrate science into her curriculum” if she wanted more time for the “secondary” subject. Other educators (and a handful of home schooler and science museum program coordinators) attended in hopes of taking away some new hands-on science activities in an effort to spice up their existing curriculum.
It was also great to see Rhonda Newton and her cadre of teachers at the Tampa Boot Camp. Rhonda connected all of the science activities from the workshop to the Florida State Science Standards and shared it with the group. Huge thanks from everyone!
As we wrap up the workshop at the end of the day, I often wish that I could pull the same group of teachers back together three to six months later to see if the learning objectives and teaching strategies really had an impact. We’ve all attended workshops or presentations where we laughed a lot and had a great time, but what was the take action message behind all of the fun… and did it change the way I teach? In other words, can a science education speaker do more than provide a motivational message during a day-long workshop?
Desh Bagley answered my questions when she was interviewed by CnewsPubs.com a few weeks after attending the Tampa Hands-on Science Boot Camp. Bagley is an informal science educator is owns and operates TechPlayZone, a science and technology center for young people. Desh understands the need for finding creative ways to get kids excited about learning science. Here’s what she had to say…
Just look at these pictures from Science in the Rockies last year and you’ll see why we don’t consider this your typical summer science workshop for teachers. Do not plan to attend Science in the Rockies 2008 if you are motivated by PowerPoint presentation, like quiet reading time from an outdated science text, hate to get your hands dirty, or have a fear of flying potatoes. One teacher described Science in the Rockies as the science methods class she never had but really needed!
Science in the Rockies 2008 is scheduled for July 9-11 in Denver at the Sheraton Denver West conference center. Registration is still open, but as of this morning there are fewer than two dozen spots available. Years ago, teachers who took this workshop called it a “science boot camp” – an intensive experience designed to inspire, motivate and move you into action… and the concept stuck. This boot camp is for K-5 teachers who need creative science integration strategies… who are tired of trying to “squeeze” science into their already packed teaching schedule… and who want to make science even more
The final stop in New York on the Science Boot Camp tour was a great way to wrap up our twelve city tour. I always enjoy working with east coast teachers (there’s an edginess to their sense of humor) and this group of highly motivated teachers was no exception. And not all of the workshop participants were from New York. I was honored to have teachers from all over the east coast, in addition to a number of non-teachers.
One non-teacher participant introduced herself as a Chinese art dealer from New York who found out about the workshop through our website and wants to be a “science mom” at her child’s school. I’m seeing more and more of this type of hands-on parental involvement on this year’s tour than ever before. Maybe it’s a sign of great parents or maybe it’s an indication that parents are worried that we [teachers] are allowing science to become an extra-curricular