The Earth Systems Implementation Project (ESIP) builds on the Anchorage School District's (ASD) award winning hands-on elementary science program. Administrators, over 2,000 parents, and community members from major Alaskan science professions are working with project staff to implement ESIP in all ASD's 61 elementary science classrooms. This inquiry-based science curriculum utilizes modules from nationally validated and NSF-supported instructional materials including Science and Technology for Children (STC), EDC-Insights, and FOSS. The underlying purpose of the curriculum is to capture, develop and nurture the essence of a good scientist in all students. Project Staff and teachers are developing a student assessment tool called "The Citizen's Guide to Earth Systems". Alaska Science and Technology Foundation and ARCO Alaska and British Petroleum, two major industry partners and at least eight state and federal agencies are collaborating their efforts to support this project.
A unique aspect of this project is the yearly curriculum plan for the participating schools. Ordinarily, each teacher is expected to complete three curriculum kits throughout the school year but due to the high expertise of the teachers, a fourth curriculum unit is being included. The teacher can choose a subject that is either environmentally specific to Alaska, an experimental subject or a technological subject. This offers the teachers an opportunity to enhance their learning of teaching science and broaden the scientific knowledge of their students. The fourth strand may also include Community Action Projects through which students apply what they have learned to their own neighborhoods and/or larger community.
Professional development opportunities for all teachers include enhanced training in both content and pedagogy. Secondary teachers, university faculty and community scientists are being partnered with the teachers during training. Training is available for school administrators, parents and other community members as an effort to expand the support base for elementary science education reform.
This project is designed for two tiers of teaching: Science Support Teachers and all elementary teachers at their respective grade levels. The first tier of training creates 366 Science Support Teachers so at the end of the three years, every elementary school has six Science Support Teachers, almost one for each grade level. They receive a ten-day course of training for three summers and all kits within the curriculum. The training includes content, field experiences, application of content, and team building strategies. The second tier involves training for all ASD elementary teachers. All teachers are trained in collegial groups of 20. Each group includes at least one Partner Scientist and/or university teacher in life, earth or physical science and an ASD secondary teacher with a discipline specialty.
At the conclusion of the 4.5 years, ESIP will be effectively implemented in Alaska's largest school district. The Anchorage School District enrolls approximately 47,000 or 38 percent of the state's public school children. Of the 47,000, 28,000 of them are in grades K-6.. Anchorage families present a wide socio-economic profile and the school district is highly multicultural: over 100 languages are spoken within its student population, where a significant portion is Native Americans.