Since 2019, Flagler County science teachers have had the opportunity to bring scientists from around the state into their classrooms as part of an initiative led by the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute (TESI) called Scientist in Every Florida School, or SEFS. As a part of SEFS initiatives, they provide professional development workshops covering a variety of topics to help teachers integrate cutting-edge science into the classroom. Over the last month, Flagler County teachers took part in a two-part workshop on integrating Artificial Intelligence into the classroom.
As its name sounds, the SEFS program works with K-12 teachers in Florida public schools to match them with scientists who align with their lesson plans and goals. In Flagler County, 100% of public schools have participated in the program – with 3,220 students given the opportunity to learn directly from a scientist.
Heidi Alves, Teaching & Learning Specialist of Flagler County Schools, appreciated the opportunity the collaboration gave to teachers to hear from experts in the field of AI “The ideas that our Flagler teachers came up with were creative and engaging,” Alves said. “We all have a much better grasp of the significance that AI has on our everyday lives.”
This professional development experience is also a part of the University of Florida’s new initiative to make the university a national leader in AI. David Reed, Associate Provost of the University of Florida, introduced the initiative to workshop participants and outlined the importance of AI on a national scale – currently, the United States isn’t competitive with other countries in terms of having a skilled AI workforce. UF’s niche, he explained, would be to make an impact on the many different areas in which AI can be implemented – including K-12 education.
In the first four-hour session, teachers learned about how AI is used in a variety of fields by UF faculty members. Jeremy A. Magruder Waisome, an Instructional Assistant Professor at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, discussed several national efforts to expand knowledge of AI in K-12 education, including the AI4K12 effort to develop national education guidelines. Other faculty members then covered how AI is used in a variety of scientific practices, from machine learning in the sea to ornithology.
At the conclusion of the first session, SEFS encouraged teachers to implement AI into an upcoming lesson in their classrooms. During the second session, those teachers gave an overview of the experience and gained feedback from Scientist in Every Florida School staff and University of Florida faculty members.
To request a classroom or county-wide visit with a scientist, visit: bit.ly/RequestScientist
For more information about the “Scientist in Every Florida School” visit: https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/earth-systems/scientist-in-every-florida-school/