Course Helps Educators Improve Science Teaching

Fourth-grader Gabriel Chipukites' interest in science started early.

"I liked it since second grade. I don't think it's boring; it shows how things work," said Gabriel.

While dozens of children like Gabriel at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center are ready to take on the subject, getting students' minds engaged while in the classroom is another story.

"If the science is taught to them by a textbook then it could be kind of boring," said second-grade teacher Erin Gannon.

Local teachers are taking a free 5-day course from the Fleet Inquiry Institute at the Science Center, with the goal of teaching teachers how they can help kids get a better grasp of the subject by including hands-on lesson plans and reworking current lesson plans to be more student-centered.

"It's kind of about what they want to learn, the questions they have and things they want to know about," said Gannon.

The program has been linked to improving student achievement.

Last year, fifth-grade teachers from Lemon Grove who took the course said they saw nearly 60 percent of their students earn proficient or advanced scores in the state's standardized science test.

Teachers who did not take the course saw only 20 percent of their students test that high.

"In a project like this, they help you understand the science more. It makes you a much better teacher," said Gannon.

Project director Cristina Trecha said, "The teacher role has kind of changed from teacher to facilitator. They step back, let the child ask their own questions and investigate on their own."

Gabriel said he is planning on building a future in the field.

"I want to make new inventions," he said.