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"Using Atlas of Science Literacy" Workshop
Helps Educators Map Student Learning
Their reasons for attending were as varied as their professional backgrounds and classroom experiences, but their goal was the same: to improve classroom practice and help students achieve important learning goals in science, mathematics, and technology. Participants in the "Using Atlas of Science Literacy" workshopheld October 15–17 at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.worked toward this goal by examining the theoretical and practical aspects of standards-based reform.
The professional development workshop, offered by AAAS Project 2061, was designed to introduce participants to Atlas of Science Literacy and other Project 2061 tools. Atlas features conceptual strand maps that graphically display the connections among key ideas and skills in science, mathematics, and technology. The maps show the sequence in which K–12 students might develop an understanding of topics such as gravity, natural selection, and statistical reasoning.
"To really achieve science literacy, students need to make connections among the ideas they learn from grade to grade," said Ted Willard, workshop leader and senior program associate for Project 2061. "That's why the Atlas maps are such a great tool for teachers."
At the D.C. workshop, more than 30 K–12 science and mathematics teachers, administrators, curriculum specialists, university faculty, and researchers engaged in open discussions, group projects, and classroom activities. They worked on developing learning goals, creating a strand map, modeling standards-based instruction, and other projects. They also gained valuable contacts, since workshop participants hailed from various states and Canada.
"Meeting people from around the U.S. was very beneficial because of the perspectives they bring," said Xavier Fazio, a science consultant for a school district in Ontario, Canada, who is completing his doctorate in science education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
Fazio was drawn to the workshop by his knowledge of Project 2061. "I have always been impressed with Project 2061 goals and their resources," he said. "The Atlas seemed to be an ambitious and important resource for science education reform and I wanted to find out more about its design and how it related to Benchmarks for Science Literacy and Science for All Americans."
Other participants familiar with Project 2061 were equally impressed with what they learned. "I've been using Benchmarks online for three years, not realizing the wealth of information in Atlas and the other Project 2061 publications, especially the information related to students' preconceptions or misconceptions," said Linda Knisely, a former teacher who's now an education specialist at the Space Science Telescope Institute in Maryland, where she uses data from the Hubble telescope to create K–12 educational tools.
For other participants, it was the activities that made the workshop special. Akram Molaka, the science department chair for South Plantation High School in Florida, said he especially liked the group activities that involved participants. "Many teachers believe in the philosophy of 'Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I'll remember, involve me and I'll understand,'" he said. Molaka also enjoyed the "open floor" atmosphere, noting, "Interaction is an enriching experience, and here you had more experienced teachers sharing with newer teachers, all of whom have something to contribute, because everyone brings something to the table."
Many participants also referenced the workshop's value in helping them to see the big picture. As one participant put it: "It helps to visualize the relationship of one benchmark to another. This was the first time I could more clearly see the bigger picture of how national benchmarks or standards flow and develop for K–12 students."
Project 2061 has been partnering with science centers to co-host recent workshops, and plans to continue offering Atlas workshops at science museums and educational institutions around the country. For more information, visit www.project2061.org/workshops. More details about Atlas of Science Literacyincluding sample strand mapsare available at www.project2061.org/tools/atlas.
28 October 2003