Sources: Brian Abramowitz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 516-225-9390
Stephanie Killingsworth, email@example.com, 561-644-2397
Media contact: Rebecca Burton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 850-316-1555
EDITORS: Participating teachers are from Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Escambia, Flagler, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Marion, Miami-Dade, Nassau, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Polk, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. Names and schools of selected teachers from each county are available upon request as well as photos and video from last year’s program.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — K-12 science teachers from across Florida will spend four days this summer immersed in a virtual research lab experience as part of a professional development workshop hosted by the UF Thompson Earth Systems Institute’s Scientist in Every Florida School Program titled “The Hydrosphere.”
From July 5-9, 59 teachers representing 22 counties selected from a pool of 274 applicants will assist scientists with ongoing research projects. Throughout the week, the teachers will work with scientists to develop lesson plans that help students better understand issues about Earth’s hydrosphere, which includes all of the water on our planet. Selected teachers will receive a $500 stipend for their participation.
Brian Abramowitz, K-12 education and outreach coordinator for SEFS, said interest in the annual SEFS summer professional development workshop has grown tremendously since last year, even with a shortened summer break.
“Last year, we received 99 applications and that number has more than doubled this year,” Abramowitz said. “We believe this is through word of mouth and more teachers learning about this free and innovative program.”
During the workshop, teachers will not only be able to assist scientists with research projects, but they will also be able to develop practical and relatable lesson plans that fit into their curriculum and meet state learning standards.
“All the while, the teachers and scientists are building lasting relationships,” Abramowitz said. “Additionally, scientists build their K-12 teaching skillset, which can help them better communicate with the general public.”
For the second summer in a row, the workshop will take place entirely on Zoom. Fourteen laboratories from the University of Florida, Florida State University, the St. Johns River and South Florida Water Management Districts, Earth Echo International, the Everglades Foundation and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center have agreed to host a small group of teachers for the week.
The scientists’ research interests range from wastewater treatment to tracking tides. Participating scientists have agreed to make at least one virtual visit to the teachers’ classrooms in the upcoming school year.
As a coastal state, the team is excited to introduce students to water issues that they are witnessing in their own backyards said SEFS K-12 education and outreach coordinator, Stephanie Killingsworth.
“During the classroom visit, students will be introduced to current scientific research as well as science role models and careers,” Killingsworth said. “And in some instances, students will assist with collecting data for ongoing research projects. We really want to bridge the gap between academic research and K-12 classrooms through this and future collaborations.”
This is the third time SEFS has hosted a workshop of this kind. Last year, 40 teachers attended virtually for similar experiences focused on what educators call the “nature of science,” or the tools, theories and skills scientists use to carry out research. The team hopes that next summer’s workshop will be in-person again.
Jonathan Greene, a K-5 teacher at Liberty Park Elementary School in Palm Beach County, was one of the participants at the inaugural program in 2019.
“The workshop expanded my community of like-minded people who believe in the importance of critical thinking skills that science education fosters,” Greene said.
“Working with scientists through SEFS has inspired me to create and share engaging standards-based lessons that foster an application of knowledge in real-world situations that become memorable experiences instead of a lesson that will soon be forgotten.”
The mission of the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute’s Scientist in Every Florida School program is to engage Florida K-12 students and teachers in cutting-edge research by providing science role models and experiences that inspire the future stewards of our planet. In its second year, the SEFS program has coordinated more than 1,700 scientist visits to classrooms representing more than 400 schools, marking 55,000 impressions on Florida’s K-12 students. So far, more than 850 teachers and nearly 600 scientists have participated in the program. More information is available at: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/earth-systems/scientist-in-every-florida-school/