From July 6-10, 2020, 40 K-12 science teachers representing 10 counties participated in the Scientist in Every Florida School Nature of Science virtual professional development workshop.

Throughout the week, teachers worked with scientists to develop lesson plans that help students better understand what’s known in education as the “nature of science,” or the tools, theories, and skills used to carry out research. The topic was chosen to align with Florida Sunshine State Standards.

This was the second annual summer professional development workshop hosted by SEFS, but due to Covid-19, this year’s workshop looked a little bit different. Sessions were held entirely on Zoom, but teachers and scientists were up for the challenge. One benefit of the move to a digital platform was that some teachers were able to participate who otherwise wouldn’t have had the ability to do so. All sessions were also recorded, which enables participants to refresh their memory about what was covered, as well as see what their fellow teachers experienced in the different lab sections.

Teacher presentation photoTeachers were able to work with one of nine participating research labs specializing in a wide range of topics such as the interface of natural hazards and human infrastructure, how to digitize collections and use apps for naturalist study, and the methods and data used to study sharks.

On the last day of the workshop, teachers gave presentations to their colleagues about the lesson plan that they developed and the learning standards that would be covered during its course.

But the learning wasn’t over at the end of the week. Participating scientists are expected to visit the teachers’ classroom, either virtually or in-person, during the upcoming school year — an aspect many teachers were particularly excited about.

“This was an amazing opportunity. I didn’t want it to end! Luckily I can still collaborate with my scientist,” one teacher stated in a feedback survey.

The experience also gives teachers a network of scientists and fellow teachers to reach out to for advice, or for the development of future curricula.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park Virtual Tour

Beyond the workshops themselves, teachers attended several presentations as a group. In an introductory session with Michael P. Clough, a scientist at Texas A&M University, participants learned how to accurately and effectively teach the nature of science, including common misconceptions and how to combat them. They were also given the opportunity to take several virtual field trips that included tours of the Sweetwater Wetlands Park, UF Honey Bee Lab, and the Whitney Sea Turtle Hospital.

If you are interested in participating in a future professional development workshop, save the date for July 5-9, 2021, and keep up with this and other K-12 programs by subscribing to the Scientist in Every Florida School newsletter.

Click the following link to access the K-12 lessons developed through our teacher-scientist collaborations throughout the week: Nature of Science Professional Development Workshop Resources..

Click the following link to view the full video playlist on YouTube: Nature of Science Professional Development Workshop Playlist.