|Hands-On Science In Seattle Public Schools, K-5|
This 5-year project is involved with developing an inquiry-based, hands-on science program for
all the elementary schools in the Seattle Public School District. The purpose is to provide a
high-quality science program for all Seattle elementary students where they learn through inquiry
and investigation. To achieve this goal, the project is preparing all teachers to conduct
inquiry-based, hands-on science in the classroom as well as providing them professional
The school district serves approximately 23,000 K-5 elementary students. Seattle's public school
district is ethnically diverse consisting of 25% Asian, 22.7% African American, 7.5%
Chicano/Latino and 3.2% Native American. Of these, 14.4% are Limited English Proficiency
students. Free or reduced-price lunches are received by 42.2% of all elementary students.
Teachers, administrators and parents must work together to ensure that the needs of every
student are met.
A strength of this project is the partnerships established between the teachers and practicing
scientists from the Boeing Company, the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center. These partnerships are designed to enhance the teachers' knowledge of
inquiry-based, hands-on science and to familarize scientists with K-6 instructional materials. In
addition, the volunteer scientists become advocates within the community on the nature and
importance of science for all children.
The teacher training is based on a pilot program, research on four existing projects around the
country and intensive input from teachers in the School District. Teachers receive training in small grade
level groups led by a skilled resource teacher/ practicing scientist team. The training also includes
school-year in-service training and year-round classroom support.
In the summer institutes, teachers explore science kits, share insights, work cooperatively to
solve problems, incorporate technology into their lessons and put into use the pedagogical
approaches they will use in the classroom. During the following school year. Teachers attend two
full-day in-services and four half-day training sessions that enable them to share and evaluate
their experiences with the kits. A second summer institute completes the formal training. At the
end of the two years, teachers have received 100 hours minimum of professional development
and will know how to implement inquiry-based science in the classroom. The goal is to provide
this enhancement to all teachers in the area schools. Subsequently, full time resource teachers
continue to support these teachers in the classroom and with in-service days. Scientists also work
with teachers and students in the classroom, as needed.
Another strength is the active involvement of administrators, parents and the local community.
The principals receive extensive content training and are responsible for providing school
leadership, communicating with parents and generating enthusiasm among the teachers. The
parents' support is generated through the Family Science Program that includes an open house
for parents where scientists and students teach the parents about science. This program gains
support and an appreciation for hands-on, inquiry-based science from families and community
members who participate. The community is involved throughout the project in many capacities
such as: showing real life connections to the science, mobilizing resources and fostering long
term continuance of the project.
Ethan Allen (Co-Principal Investigator)
Bob Sotak (Co-Principal Investigator)
Elaine Woo (Project Director)
Mark St. John (Evaluator)
Pam Tambe (Evaluator)
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