Thursday, May 5, 2016

Goshen College junior Ruth Wiens (far left) weights in the Tower project of Northridge Middle School students Kelly Blough and Andrew Maas at a Science Olypiad tournament. Teachers in some local schools will be getting more training on how to teach science in a hands-on way. (Truth Photo By J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

Roosevelt School kindergartner Alberto Orea-Pineda slides on his chest following a ping pong ball as he competes in a race during class Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Students had to move balls across the floor without touching the balls. They used straws to blow air on the balls. Some students had tennis ball and others ping pong balls. Some local teachers will be getting training on how to teach science in a more hands-on way. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)

Roosevelt School kindergarten teacher Jenna Labash explains a science experiment to her class Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Some local teachers will be learning how to teach science in a more hands-on way. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)

Dominic Davis talks to judge Colin McClelland during judging at the Elkhart science fair at Memorial Saturday, January 21, 2012. Some local teachers will be trained on how to teach science in a more hands-on way. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard) (AP)
Grant will fund science knowledge for local teachers

Posted on Dec. 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Elkhart and Concord schools recently won a grant from the Indiana Department of Education worth nearly half a million dollars.

But the schools won’t be getting stacks of cash. Instead, teachers from both school districts will be getting about $450,000 worth of “professional development” — all to learn how to teach science in a more hands-on way.

Patsy Boehler, executive director of Ethos Science Center and project director for the grant, said that since student testing focuses on math and language arts, “science takes a backseat.”

But local schools, including Elkhart and Concord, have created a five-year plan to get students more science — and to get it to them in a way that is enjoyable and kindles interest in science careers. That’s where the grant comes in.

The $450,000 pays for 40 K-8 teachers from Elkhart and Concord school districts to do training workshops. Starting this summer, these teachers will attend a two-week workshop at Ethos every year for three years.

The workshops will be taught by some Ethos staff members, but also by leaders in science education from all over the country. Graduate students from the University of Notre Dame will also help, and the academic adviser is from Purdue University Calumet.

“What (teachers) are going to learn is, how do you teach inquiry?” Boehler said. “The science we want them to teach is not from a textbook.”

Instead, teachers will learn how to encourage their students to experiment and find answers to real problems.

“Kids are natural scientists,” Boehler said. “The younger they are, the more they like to explore and investigate, and that really makes them ideal scientists.”

She stressed that it’s important for students to learn science before they reach middle school — and she thinks that once students are engaged at a young age, they might continue that interest in science as they get older.

“We haven’t groomed that part of (students), and I think it will make a big difference,” Boehler said.

Boehler also applied for the same grant for Goshen, Jimtown, and Fairfield school corporations, but that grant application was not approved. She will resubmit the grant in next year’s cycle, to hopefully get similar funding for those schools.

The ultimate goal of this project is to show students science jobs that exist here, in Elkhart County, Boehler said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity here,” she said, citing local companies like Serim Research Corporation, Agdia, NIBCO, Siemens, and Cummins Onan.

Where does the money go?

“Four hundred and fifty thousand dollars does seem like a lot of money, but it’s only $150,000 per year,” Boehler pointed out. Here’s where that grant money is going:

Ÿ Pays academic advisor from Purdue Calumet

Ÿ Pays for external evaluation team to come in and evaluate success of program

Ÿ Pays graduate students from Notre Dame

Ÿ Pays for trainers for the workshops

Ÿ Pays for extended opportunities for teachers, like using Ethos’ Science 2 Go bus and robotics equipment.