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Friday, July 1, 2016

Kansas Physics and Physical Science Teachers "Model the Unseen" in their lesson planning with the assistance of Kansas NSF EPSCoR AMO Researchers

   On June 9-10, 2016, Kansas NSF EPSCoR continued its successful Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) physics teacher professional development initiative.  This year's title was “Modeling the Unseen in the Physical Sciences.” Twenty four high school and middle school physics and physical science teachers from all over Kansas participated in this two day educational opportunity held at Kansas State University (KSU) .
Dr. Chris Elles, Dr. Uwe Thumm, Mr. Jared Bixby, and Mr. Zach Conrad
  The objectives for the workshop involved addressing the Science and Engineering Practices listed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), encouraging teachers to use modeling strategies in their lesson planning, and facilitating the opportunity to make curriculum connections to the cutting edge AMO Research occurring in Kansas. Participants reviewed the NGSS with Jared Bixby, Education Curator for the Sunset Zoo, and received an update of the state’s science assessment plan from Zach Conrad, Interim Science Consultant for the Kansas Department of Education.
Teachers tour the James R. Macdonald Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics Lab with Dr. Kevin Carnes
   Dr. Kevin Carnes, KSU Research Professor of Physics & Associate Director of Operations JRM Lab, and Dr. Charles W. Fehrenbach, KSU Research Assistant Professor of Physics, led tours of the James R. Macdonald Laboratory (JRM) explaining the history of the lab, the various lab equipment processes, lasers and the innovative AMO experiments currently taking place in the lab.
Penny Blue, Dr. Jackie Spears (KSU) and Dr. Paul Adams (FHSU) facilitate modeling instructional strategy discussions and lesson planning activities
    Penny Blue, a science instructor from Lyons High School in Lyons, KS and teacher participant from last year’s teacher workshop, provided an introduction to modeling instructional strategies. Then teachers were asked to review lessons they currently teach to identify ways to incorporate modeling practices into their instruction.  The first day ended with teacher’s discussing takeaways from the the tour and presentations with Dr. Jackie Spears, Professor of Curriculum & Instruction (KSU) and Dr. Paul Adams, Dean of the College of Education, Anshultz Professor of Education, and Professor of Physics at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) as well as preparing questions for the next day's interactive activities working with the Kansas NSF EPSCoR AMO Chemists and Physicists.
Round table discussions with Kansas NSF EPSCoR AMO Researchers
   On day two, teachers spent the morning participating in round table discussions with Kansas NSF EPSCoR AMO researchers: Dr. Chris Elles (KU), Dr. Uwe Thumm (KSU), Dr. Bret Flanders (KSU) and Dr. A.T. Le (KSU).  Each researcher provided a short presentation of their own research and talked about how they use models in their work.  Then, the researchers brainstormed with teachers to ascertain curricular connections to the AMO Research.  

   During the afternoon session, the teachers were given time to enhance or create lessons to include the Science and Engineering Practices of the NGSS, modeling instructional strategies and curricular connections to the AMO research.  As was done last year, the follow-up sessions will include asking some teachers to present their workshop experiences, their new AMO lessons and any lessons learned after teaching those lessons to the Kansas Association Teachers of Science in April, 2017.

A Google Docs repository was created to store the lessons developed at the workshop. Teachers were encouraged to direct their colleagues across the state to use the resources housed in the Google Docs Kansas NSF EPSCoR AMO Physics Lesson Plan Repository.

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