Making a Difference in the Lives of Teachers and Students
"Who will make decisions about the nation's future? People with no understanding of science? How will they know what the nation needs? How can they vote with intelligence?" This is the challenge Professor Ronald M. Latanision directs to participants of the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers. MIT recognizes that primary and secondary classroom teachers are in the unique position to influence succeeding generations: our future voters and leaders. The program offers respect for teachers' ability to grapple with complex scientific and technological advances, while providing a collegial forum. The result is enthusiastic teachers who ultimately impact the lives of thousands of students.
In 1989, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers and made it available to teachers from New England. The purpose of the program is to bring teachers in contact with cutting-edge developments in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and technology. The goal is to provide teachers with a perspective on the interface between science education, technology and society that they can use to shape classroom instruction.
The partnership has two components. The first, the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers, is an annual, broad-based, one-week program held on MIT's campus during the last week of June. The second component, the Network of Educators in Science and Technology, NEST, is a grass-roots, teacher organization that has grown out of this program. Over the years, NEST has grown to an organization of more than 700 elementary, middle and high school science, mathematics and technology teachers who remain affiliated with MIT. Although the largest fraction of these teachers are from New England, more than 25% of the members are from schools in other states. Members have come from Hawaii, California, Kansas, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, for example. In recent years, 53 international educators representing 10 countries outside of the U.S. have also joined our program. The full program, the Science and Engineering Program for Teachers and NEST, is described in the following pages. In short, the NEST agenda provides for continuing interaction during the academic year between the teachers who attend the Science and Engineering Program and MIT faculty.
The Science and Engineering Program for Teachers
Each summer, we select approximately fifty teachers to share MIT's perspective on how engineers apply the principles of science to meet the technological needs of society. The value of this integrated perspective, combining the leading-edge research in math and science with engineering, advanced technologies, global economics, and policy issues, has been enthusiastically acknowledged and endorsed by the program's alumni/a (the NEST teachers). Another, more nebulous, but nonetheless real, aspect of the program is the reinvigoration of the participating teachers, in some cases reversing their decision to quit the teaching profession. Many teachers are known to stay in the classroom for only a few years.
The program begins with half-day presentations on the frontiers in chemistry, physics, math, and the life sciences. This is followed by a full-day treatment of the synthesis, processing, properties, and performance of materials, which serves as the bridge between science and engineering. The final two days stress the design and manufacture of engineering systems, including management and techno-economic decision making. Examples are drawn from engineering systems important to international commerce and health care, such as integrated circuits, aircraft engines, artificial intelligence, and bioengineering, as well as those that affect the quality of life on Earth, such as water treatment, the infrastructure, and energy conversion.
The schedule is intensive, with morning and afternoon lectures, demonstrations, laboratory visits, and evening dinners with the faculty, staff, and guest speakers. The lecturers are from the faculty of the Schools of Engineering and Science. The interest in participation by these diverse groups of faculty reflects MIT's growing concern and commitment to the precollege educational enterprise.
The program has four goals:
From the outset, the program's professional development goals have been in keeping with the newly published National Science Education Standards, "Professional development for teachers should be analogous to professional development of other professionals. Becoming an effective science teacher is a continuous process that stretches from pre-service experiences in undergraduate years to the end of a professional career. Science has a rapidly changing knowledge base and expanding relevance to societal issues, and teachers will need ongoing opportunities to build their understanding and ability."
- to illustrate how the basic principles taught in primary and secondary school chemistry, biology, physics, and math classes are extended by science and engineering faculty at the university level and in industry to create engineering systems of value to society;
- to present the state-of-the-art and frontiers of science and engineering research;
- to emphasize how industrial productivity and quality of life depend on a technically literate society; and
- to stress the continuum of science education that begins in grammar school, passes through high school, and continues through the university and industry. We are all part of the same educational continuum.
Each program is held the last week of June. Program announcements are distributed in late Fall to science teachers and/or heads of the science departments of public, private, and parochial middle and high schools throughout New England, to MIT Alumni Clubs, to a database of individuals who have expressed interest in the program, and to NEST teachers. The program has also been typically advertised in the December-January issue of NSTA Reports published by the National Science Teachers Association.
"If we wish to remain a literate culture, someone is going to have to take the responsibility for teaching children at all socioeconomic levels how to talk, listen, and think. If we want high school graduates who can analyze, solve problems, and create new solutions, adults will have to devote the time to showing them how. It appears that schools will have to assume a larger share of this responsibility." These schools must include institutions of higher learning such as MIT.
Candidate Selection Criteria
Each applicant must file an application which serves as the basis for the decision of the Selection Committee.
- Teachers currently teaching full time.
- Each class should represent a variety of disciplines to facilitate broad-ranging discussion.
- Gender, ethnic, as well as, urban, and rural equity.
- Teachers holding an advanced degree or working toward one.
- Demonstration of a commitment to continuing education via attendance at professional conferences, workshops, etc.
- Teachers who demonstrate a commitment to learning and teaching. For example, teachers who regularly present workshops, outreach programs, seminars, etc., to other teachers, students, or the community at large.
- Individuals who, according to the selection committee, would benefit from this experience.
- Teachers who the selection committee determines are most likely to incorporate what they have learned at MIT into their curriculum and who will organize and conduct outreach programs (workshops, seminars) for other teachers, students, and the local community.
Science and Engineering Program - International
Currently representing 10 countries outside the United States, international educators have been successful participants of MIT's Science and Engineering Program for Teachers. We would welcome the opportunity to accept more international teachers into the program. The participation of international teachers enhances and expands discussions about the issues all educators encounter. The education of young people is a global priority.
Program Impact on Teachers/Testimonials
In 1989, Avi Ornstein, past co-chair of NEST and a teacher at Hartford High School, CT expressed his views regarding the emergence of NEST:
There is a clear feeling that we may be able to start a movement to resolve our nation's problems in math and scientific literacy. . . . I have an optimistic view that we can 'start the ball rolling'. . . . MIT is the type of point of origin to begin, especially if we make it clear that we are addressing all of society, not merely the academic elite.
Louis G. Salvio from William Hall High School, West Hartford, Connecticut, commented after attending the first Science and Engineering Program for Teachers in 1989:
Many secondary teachers are of the opinion that they are alone in the battle to get students more interested in the fields of math and science. This program has shown us we have allies to help us. . . . Like a snowball that starts rolling down hill, this program will pick up speed and when we all look back in five years at what was started in June of 1989, we will be amazed.
Cynthia C. Reedy, a chemistry, earth/science, Life Sciences and IPS teacher from Hebron Academy, Hebron, Maine, and Science and Engineering class of 1995:
The experience really gave me the boost I needed to stay teaching. I have not seen a raise in six years. It leaves me with a 'why am I doing this' feeling. The MIT week helped to answer that question.
Dorothy Bagley, a chemistry teacher at Shrewsbury High School, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, said that as a result of attending the 1995 program she developed a new organization of the science curriculum into four quarters: Materials Science, The Atom, Organic and Bio-Chemistry, and Environmental Topics. Support for these ideas came from MIT.
Beverly J. Lee, a physics teacher from Clear Creek High School, Leagus City, Texas and a 1996 program participant, wrote:
The "smorgasbord" of topics presented in one week at MIT has extended my interest and provided me with a nutshell perspective of current research in science and technology and its potential impact on society. I was delighted to get a better understanding of topics about which I had read but was unsure of my interpretation. The week at MIT has enhanced my knowledge and understanding. Thanks for the brain food.
Jennifer L. Flittie, a teacher from Ventura High School, Ventura, California and a 1996 participant, emphasized the difference from other educational programs:
First, the professors involved in this program at MIT gave us the feeling that they were sincere about helping with the educational process and with us specifically as teachers. The professors at MIT went so far as to not only share their personal stories, but also offered help and even gave us e-mail addresses to answer questions. Second, it was exciting to see experts discuss their fields of expertise and share their enthusiasm for things they were doing or had done. This give us as teachers first-hand, current information to bring to the classroom. I feel fortunate to have been able to participate. . . . It was both educational and motivational. I hope you continue your efforts.
Dennis Andrews, a 1996 program participant and a teacher from Marple Newtown Senior High School, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, wrote:
The value of MIT's program was that the knowledge was shared with teachers, who then would decide how and when to fit the topics into their curriculum or create new curriculum. Treating the teachers with respect for their ability to understand the material and understanding that they were the optimal ones to decide how to include it in their classroom teaching was a novelty in my experience.
Kitty Swan, a biology, chemistry, physics teacher from Great Brook School (a middle school), Antrim, New Hampshire and a 1997 attendee:
This experience was validating for me. When I made the leap from 3rd to 8th grade I did so with minimal training in my undergrad preservice. I took the required sciences, minored in the Earth Sciences, but have never had the higher order subjects such as trig, calculus, physics, chemistry, etc. Now I realize that through my own choices of professional development and reading I have a pretty good background, but need to refocus on areas that I found my understanding limited. I was thrilled as Professor Canizares spoke of Pathfinder, Galileo, Hubble, etc. It will make a difference to me personally and professionally, to my students and how and what they learn, and to my peers as we restructure our curriculum to meet the New Hampshire Frameworks and National Science Standards.
Bill Brazeal, a science and mathematics middle school teacher from Overland Trail Middle School, BlueValley District, Overland Park, Kansas and a 1998 attendee:
It was a fantastic experience! This week I learned more than any other week in my life. I appreciated the broad surveys and the engineering applications. The information on magnets, lasers, biotechnology . . . was incredible. I will be much better able to give students links between science and the world around them and to be better able to challenge them to develop and research problems that interests them after this opportunity to observe what real scientists/engineers do.
David Stover, a science teacher from The Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware, 1999 attendee wrote:
This has been one of the great weeks in my professional life. The exchange of idea between teachers during breaks and in the evening was as important as the cutting edge material presented during talks. All provided information I feel I can use in my class to engage the students interest.
Susan McGill, a biology teacher from Boltz Junior High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, 2000 wrote:
I came prepared to be 'blown out of the water' by the professor's expertise. I was not disappointed. I thought this program was phenomenal.
Adriana Bilgray, Instituto Superior del Profesorado, Argentina, 2001 attendee said:
I am really happy to have made the decision to come; all my expectations were fulfilled. I go back to Argentina really wanting my colleagues to come to MIT and live what I've experienced during this unforgettable week.
Network of Educators in Science and Technology (NEST)
As stated in the preceding, NEST was born from the energies of the remarkable group of teachers who attended MIT's first Science and Engineering Program for Teachers in 1989. This group met well into the evening after each full day of topical presentations in order to discuss problems inherent in the teaching of science and other, broader educational policy and societal issues. Find out more about the Network of Educators in Science and Technology.