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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Kansas Elementary Teachers Learn About The Nature of Matter With The Support of Kansas NSF EPSCoR

  As a further extension of outreach to Kansas Science teachers, the Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures sponsored the Operation Primary Physical Science (OPPS) Workshop at Fort Hays State University.  The workshop was held July 17 – 18, 2017. Twenty four elementary school teachers, mostly from the rural communities across the state, were invited to participate in this two day workshop to study how to teach the Nature of Matter and aligned it with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
   Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education, Anshultz Professor of Education, and Professor of Physics at Fort Hays State University (FHSU), has been involved with the highly successful Track 2 Kansas EPSCoR High School Physics and Chemistry Teachers’ workshop, Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences, for the last 3 years. As a result of the Kansas adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in June of 2013, a new vision was created for teaching and learning K -12 Science.  The relatively new NGSS structure involves transforming traditional science teaching approaches by shifting the focus from the memorization of facts to greater student engagement in the processes of science. Using the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas, the Science and Engineering Practices and the Crosscutting Concepts, (known as three dimensional teaching) teachers are now expected to guide students to understand the big ideas of science, conduct investigations and develop models; and bridge concepts across disciplinary boundaries. Because many elementary teachers are not as well prepared to lead students in content-rich, inquiry-based quality instruction, Dr. Adams developed this workshop to meet their need.  He also wanted to provide an aligned connection between the NGSS elementary physics curriculum and the NGSS high school curriculum.  Specifically, the OPPS workshop addressed enhancing the elementary school teachers’ content knowledge related the particle nature of matter as well as experience and develop a three dimensional learning pedagogical approach.
Earl Leglieter leading a modeling lesson
   Earl Leglieter conducted a session on Modeling Strategies, similar to the one he presented at the 2017 Kansas EPSCoR Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences high school workshop in June, but with a specific goal to build a particle model of matter, a first step to understanding chemistry and physics. Adams presented the NGSS three dimensional teaching strategies using National Science Teacher Association materials, and later facilitated teachers’ processing discussions.
  Teachers were given a pre/posttest which showed a significant gain in content knowledge [(P<2e-10) from a mean of 38 to 71].  In addition, the teachers said they enjoyed learning more about structuring lessons to involve modeling and inquiry; having students work in small groups to develop skills of cooperation and learning from others; how to help children learn by discovery through the use of open questions; and how to give students time to experiment and investigate in order for them to come up with ideas on their own.  Furthermore, the teachers really appreciated this opportunity to learn more about NGSS, modeling strategies and teaching physics.
   One Teachers commented “It was good to see actual physics lessons that could be adapted to my level,” and another recognized the need to lead students to figure out solutions on their own. Overall, the teachers were happy to have new curriculum, new experiments, and a different way to teach the states of matter.

Education and outreach funding for the physics teacher workshop was provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.