3576 Views (as of 05/2023)
  1. Bess Caplan
  2. Ecology Education Program Leader
  4. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
  1. Alan Berkowitz
  2. http://www.caryinstitute.org/science-program/our-scientists/dr-alan-r-berkowitz
  3. Head of Education
  5. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
  1. Kevin Fleming
  2. Graduate Student
  4. George Washington University
  1. Kevin Garner
  2. STEM Science Coordinator
  4. Baltimore City Public Schools
  1. Jonathon Grooms
  2. https://gsehd.gwu.edu/directory/jonathon-grooms
  3. Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy
  5. George Washington University

Integrating Chemistry and Earth science

NSF Awards: 1721163

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

The Integrating Chemistry and Earth science (ICE) project built a robust professional learning community (PLC) of Baltimore City high school chemistry teachers, scientists and educators. The ICE PLC is supporting the teachers as they transition from teaching a traditional chemistry course to one with Earth science content integrated throughout and fully aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.  When COVID closed schools in March 2020, the learning community shifted online, continuing to carry out preplanned professional development sessions among doubt surrounding attendance, available virtual resources and new pressures and constraints placed on both teachers and ICE staff.  Not only did teachers attend, but the virtual nature of the programming allowed new teachers to participate in ways ICE staff didn’t anticipate.  After-school virtual Happy Hour sessions were created with expert scientists as guest speakers and time for teachers to co-plan lessons, a virtual summer workshop provided intensive professional development from the safety of home, and the emergence of active and respected teacher leaders from the learning community propelled teachers to share virtual teaching resources and ideas on their own.  Our video will follow ICE staff and Baltimore City high school chemistry teachers as they transitioned from traditional in-person professional learning to a fully virtual learning community.  We are eager to share how our adaptive and responsive approach has strengthened and sustained the ICE project learning community amidst academic and social challenges.  The enthusiasm, attention to student learning and creativity shared in the PLC were truly inspirational for everyone involved.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (16 posts)
  • Icon for: Catherine McCulloch

    Catherine McCulloch

    Senior Project Director
    May 11, 2021 | 06:20 a.m.

    Bess and team, thank you for sharing this work, and congratulations on being able to pivot your approach to accommodate needs during the pandemic. I’m wondering if you will continue any of the approaches that you adapted over the last year. If so, what was it about the adaptations that you think will work well in a post-pandemic context?

  • Icon for: Alan Berkowitz

    Alan Berkowitz

    Head of Education
    May 11, 2021 | 06:52 a.m.

    We will be continuing several of the innovations developed during the pandemic: 1) periodic 'Happy Hours' giving all City high school chemistry teachers a chance to share their recent experiences in the 'classroom,' reflect on student learning and gain new content and pedagogical content knowledge through informal, supportive exchanges; 2) hybrid professional development during Summer Academies that blend synchronous on-line community building with asynchronous outdoor and 'lab' work plus guided reflection on interpreting and responding to student thinking; and 3)  providing on-line resources to support instruction.

  • Icon for: Kevin Garner

    Kevin Garner

    STEM Science Coordinator
    May 11, 2021 | 10:07 p.m.

    The quick pivot also provided the opportunity to grow the relationships among the teachers from across the Baltimore.  The innovations are being duplicated in the other courses K-12.

  • Icon for: Bess Caplan

    Bess Caplan

    Lead Presenter
    Ecology Education Program Leader
    May 11, 2021 | 09:09 a.m.

    Welcome to our video!  The Integrating Chemistry and Earth science project is a partnership between the Cary Institute, Baltimore City Public Schools and George Washington University to understand how an integrated chemistry-Earth science high school course supports understanding of both subject areas.  We are curious to learn about similar projects that bring together two disciplines under a single course.  We are also curious to learn about other teacher professional learning communities that, like ours, were forced to pivot quickly to a virtual setting.  What did you find challenging?  What were your successes?  What advice do you have for programs that may decide to stay virtual or continue in a hybrid fashion?  Thanks for your feedback!

  • Icon for: Jaime Gutierrez

    Jaime Gutierrez

    Research Associate II
    May 11, 2021 | 10:38 a.m.

    Hi Bess and team, thanks for sharing this work! Always impressed by teachers and researchers that can quickly adapt and answer the bell in difficult times. It was so interesting to hear that the team not only took the shift as an opportunity to run the PDs but also expanded on the work and offered additional resources and opportunities for learning and engaging with peers. On a programmatic level, I'm curious to hear what were some of the challenges faced. The video mentions different tools were highlighted, where were those ideas coming from? Did they come from the teachers themselves? Also, there was a note that staff shipped hands-on materials to teachers in the PDs. That sounds like labor intensive work. Did the staff package the kits individually or were they prepackaged kits? Did teachers or staff then also ship kits to students?

    Thanks again!

  • Icon for: Alan Berkowitz

    Alan Berkowitz

    Head of Education
    May 11, 2021 | 01:26 p.m.

    Hi, Jaime. Our team includes a seasoned teacher who happened to have a great deal of expertise with various tools (Jamboard, etc.) perfectly suited to virtual instruction, along with a recent graduate of an M.Ed. program who also had familiarity with these tools. Over time our teachers became comfortable enough to share their own resources, too. The kits were assembled by Bess and teachers in our Summer Academy picked them up beforehand and then dropped them off afterwards. These weren't the complete kits they have available for in-school instruction, but just a subset to allow some hands-on work during the Academy. City Schools did not support hands-on learning by students due to equity and safety concerns, so no kits were distributed to students. Definitely a challenge for someone like me who has spent much of my professional career supporting authentic engagement with real world phenomena and materials.


  • Icon for: April Bartnick

    April Bartnick

    K-12 Teacher
    May 12, 2021 | 01:09 p.m.

    What a great project!

    Virtual happy hour is such a good idea. Social-emotional learning is often overlooked. Were the kits you sent home very expensive?

  • Icon for: Jonathon Grooms

    Jonathon Grooms

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2021 | 02:46 p.m.

    Hi April, we've found the happy hours to be a great way to stay connected with the teachers and for them to stay connected with each other. At only 45 mins, there is a 'low-cost' commitment to joining in as well, particularly after a full day of virtual teaching. For our summer work, we made kits available for teachers to safely pick up at a central location and they were relatively low cost and included items like an infrared thermometer, rock samples, some vinegar to model acid rain, etc. These kits were only for the teachers during our summer institute. We were not able to provide kits directly to students for a variety of reasons. 

  • Icon for: Channa Comer

    Channa Comer

    STEM Educator
    May 12, 2021 | 06:37 p.m.

    Hello Bess and team,

    Thank you for sharing the great work you're doing! One advantage of moving to a virtual platform for your PLC was the opportunity for teachers from across Baltimore to connect. How do you anticipate facilitating continued collaboration among teachers from different schools throughout the city? Are there plans to leverage the expertise of the teacher leaders who emerged from within the community as they return to in-person learning? How will you measure the impact of the integrated curriculum on students and teachers? 

  • Icon for: Jonathon Grooms

    Jonathon Grooms

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2021 | 08:29 p.m.

    Thanks for these great questions Channa. Before the virtual shift, our development team teachers were already serving as a resource for their peers and became leaders within their schools. The curriculum writer for the project is a district-level staff member and classroom teacher. She and other teachers for the team have lead district-wide PD for chemistry teachers and resources created by development team teachers to support their own virtual instruction have been shared across the district to help ease the instructional transitions. We are hopeful that these new norms continue when we return to in-person instruction. 

    We are collecting a variety of data related to student learning and teacher change during the curriculum development, implementation, and revision process. We have some very promising data related to students' growth in modeling local phenomena. We have also been able to document positive shifts in teachers' perceptions of the curriculum and their nuanced understanding of the integrated aspects of chemistry and Earth science.  

  • Icon for: Liz Lehman

    Liz Lehman

    May 12, 2021 | 06:38 p.m.

    I love how successful your pivot to a virtual learning community has been, it is inspiring! I'm wondering you think some critical elements to success are? Did many of your teachers know each other before the virtual program started? Do you think it helped that they have a focused reason for joining the group?

  • Icon for: Jonathon Grooms

    Jonathon Grooms

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2021 | 08:49 p.m.

    Hi Liz - we are definitely pleased with the success of the pivot, given all the challenges for everyone this school year, it would have been very easy to lose focus on this important work. Many of our teachers have been a part of our development team group for multiple years, so they were definitely connected to one another and had formed a community already. The virtual shift provided an opportunity to maintain those connections. We also had new teachers join to learn more about the curriculum and specific activities, to brush up on content from expert scientists, and learn about new virtual teaching tools. So I do think having these specific opportunities available for teachers encouraged and helped maintain participation.

  • Icon for: Rose Kendrick

    Rose Kendrick

    Program Manager
    May 13, 2021 | 02:21 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this very important work!  It appears that their were already some relationships in place with teachers prior to the pivot to virtual.  We started in a virtual environment.  Can you share any specific examples of strategies you used that support building strong teacher relationships that start virtually?  Also, is participation in your PLCs or Happy Hours voluntary?  I love how your team addressed the hands-on learning support.

  • Icon for: Bess Caplan

    Bess Caplan

    Lead Presenter
    Ecology Education Program Leader
    May 13, 2021 | 02:46 p.m.

    Hello Rose.  We did have relationships with some of the teachers prior to the virtual pivot.  We were already hosting in person monthly sessions with a group of teachers so moving those meetings to a virtual setting was easy.  However, our summer program brought in new teachers we had not worked with before.  We worked very closely with our partners at Baltimore City Pubic Schools to promote our summer program to all high school chemistry teachers in the district.  The school system has a summer learning system in place where teachers can register for different professional learning opportunities and we were able to advertise through this system which really helped us get the word out. We also had our course approved for professional learning credits which go towards pay increases for the teachers.  This was another way we made our program attractive. Once teachers were in attendance, we employed different strategies to get to know the teachers and have them get to know us.  We always start off each session with an open discussion for teachers to share anything they like about their teaching.  This informal start to each session helped participants feel welcome and gave everyone a chance to participate in conversation.  We also used a lot of small group breakout sessions and small group work which allowed the teachers to interact in a smaller and more meaningful way with their peers. Participation was/is entirely voluntary.  

  • Icon for: Mary Stapleton

    Mary Stapleton

    Informal Educator
    May 13, 2021 | 02:29 p.m.

    Hi Bess,

    It was great to watch your video.  I remember attending one of your PD's pretty early on during the Covid crisis.  It was very motivating and exciting to see how engaged your teachers were and to see the creative ways in which you were engaging them.  I read your reply above about how you'll take some of what you learned during this pandemic pivot and continue it even during 'normal' times.  Our program will be also be taking a lot of what we learned as we go forward and get back into in-person PD!

  • Icon for: Bess Caplan

    Bess Caplan

    Lead Presenter
    Ecology Education Program Leader
    May 13, 2021 | 02:38 p.m.

    Thanks Mary.  I've been very inspired by what your team at the Center for STEM Excellence has achieved during Covid.  The resources you've generated are fantastic and I've shared some of them widely with teachers in my programs. The virtual world has many benefits and we will certainly look very closely at what we have achieved this past year as we determine what aspects of virtual programming to keep.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.