My proposed curriculum map at CityScience was a useful centerpiece for a discussion of where to begin developing new programs and how to go about tailoring our program to each individual classroom or community that requests our services. The hope is still to establish a system in which teachers or community program leaders can request one or two tracks for classroom instruction, then CityScience staff can draw from the well-organized materials to craft a program for that particular classroom, informed by school resources and conversations with the teacher, meanwhile moving away from providing single day classroom programming toward providing classroom programs a minimum of ten sessions long. My map revealed many deficits in our early childhood programming, which will be important to fill because of the upcoming expansion in pre-kindergarten access.
Meanwhile, I am helping to prepare for CityScience to support the STEM component of ten day-camps funded by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development. I used funding from the Department to purchase nearly thirty books that I selected to supplement our lessons in city planning, green energy, and mapping. At some camps, these books will help populate the “reading corner.” At others, counselors may read a science storybook to their group. I have also written a guide for camp personnel to the supplementary materials available from City Science and assembled links to some relevant videos available online. I composed discussion questions to accompany the videos. I performed a similar function for the Human Anatomy and Physiology unit we will be piloting in high schools this fall: I selected materials to purchase and wrote a guide to those materials for educators.
At the Hudson River Park, I have gotten some “hands-on” time preparing materials for the maker space programs, primarily cutting cardboard for participants to use as construction material along with box rivets. There is an intellectual component to that work as well, continually deciding what sizes and shapes would provide the richest engineering learning experience for a broad range of ages and abilities. At any rate, materials preparation is no small part of working as a science teacher. I have also distributed fliers for the park’s educational programs and submitted information about the events to several publications and websites. Doing so will hopefully attract learners to the lessons we’re creating! More often at the park, though, I am writing guides for the environmental educators to use when delivering these programs. These guides include the objective of the activity, background information about the STEM concepts involved, a step-by-step guide to the project, and lists of materials and tools along with information about why they were chosen and how to use them safely.
I continue to be exposed to a variety of science teaching methods at each internship, building a repertoire of techniques to take into my science classroom. Because my background is in science, not engineering, developing engineering activities for the Hudson River Park maker space series is expanding my horizons as a STEM educator. This work forces me to consider the subtle differences between encouraging innovation in engineering and encouraging careful observation and discovery in experiments. At the same time, I am coming to see how those skills are inextricably intertwined.
In addition, in the coming months, I will spend a week with the New York Botanical Garden, working to facilitate one of their teacher professional development workshops about using a school garden to teach botany and ecology. Because my goal for the summer is to gain a breadth of knowledge in quality inquiry science pedagogy, exposure to one more organization is an excellent opportunity!