Alaska Teachers Strengthen Science Education with Help from Alaska Sea Grant

ASG_Education

Alaska Sea Grant helped sponsor a workshop for teachers in the Alaska capital in June as part of its mission to promote marine literacy.

Ten teachers from Juneau and Cordova gathered at Lena Point where the University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries facility is located. They were there for a curriculum-writing workshop led by Marilyn Sigman and Peggy Cowan. An associate professor at UAF’s College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Sigman also serves as Alaska Sea Grant’s marine education specialist. Cowan is a former director of Alaska Sea Grant’s “Sea Week” program and former superintendent of the Juneau School District.

The workshop goal was to write lesson plans for Alaska Sea Grant’s Alaska Seas and Watersheds curriculum. The K–8 curriculum was developed by Alaska teachers to provide teaching resources with high-quality content focused on marine science topics.

“This curriculum was last revised by teachers in 2009 to be aligned with Alaska’s state science standards and to be available online. The task this time was to align with new national standards for science that include technology and engineering, and new state standards for math, English and language arts. In addition, we asked teachers to emphasize place-based content, including connections to local Alaska Native cultures,” Sigman said.

The lesson plans developed at the workshop are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards, a national effort to improve content and the way science is taught in K–12 classrooms. In addition to learning about current marine research and writing lesson plans, the teachers piloted field-trip teaching activities at low tide on a Juneau beach on the last day of the workshop.

The field trip lessons will be used in Juneau and Cordova during Sea Week, the popular marine literacy program for K-8 students that originated in Juneau more than 40 years ago and evolved into the statewide Alaska Seas and Watersheds program. Beginning in the 1980s, Alaska Sea Grant expanded Juneau’s tradition statewide, continuing to emphasize field trips along with the use and celebration of the local environment and community partnerships to teach science and other subjects.

Four of seven Juneau School District teachers who participated in the June workshop were “second-generation” Sea Week-ers, having grown up doing Sea Week field trips every year during elementary school in Juneau, Hoonah, or Angoon. Three of the four teachers were Alaska Natives, members of the Tlingit tribe.

Hans Chester, who works as an Indian studies specialist, was among them. Chester emphasized the importance of integrating culture into education.

“Designing lesson plans that incorporate the cultural backgrounds of Alaska students is a powerful way to engage and teach them. Culture is everything we have, think and do as members of a society,” Chester said.

Other workshop participants included educators from community partners—a Douglas Island Pink and Chum hatchery in Juneau and the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova—who sponsor and provide Sea Week field trips.

The final lesson plans will be integrated into curricula in Juneau and Cordova school districts. The lessons will also be made available to teachers statewide through the Alaska Seas and Watersheds website and through professional development workshops that Alaska Sea Grant holds throughout the state.

Source: Alaska Sea Grant July Fishlines Newsletter

NSF Grant Aims to Support STEM Teacher Preparation in Alaska

A University of Alaska faculty team will develop a new scholarship program to support Alaskans who want to become secondary science, technology, engineering and math teachers.

A $74,000 National Science Foundation grant will allow the team to build the plan for a Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at the University of Alaska. The program will provide full scholarships to support Alaska STEM majors as they earn their teaching certificates.

“Students tell us over and over again that they need financial support for enrolling in a full-time teacher education program,” said Ute Kaden, one of the project leads and chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks secondary education program. “Currently there are little to no funds available to support students who want to become teachers in Alaska.”

The state has a large number of small rural schools that grapple with high teacher turnover and an increasing demand for STEM instructors. Rural schools often have only one teacher responsible for teaching all the STEM subjects across multiple grade levels.

“This collaborative approach built on the expertise and resources of all three UA campuses will be sustainable and attractive,” Kaden said. “It has the potential to increase the number of Alaska-educated STEM teachers in a fiscally responsible, non-disruptive way.”

Other project leads include Steffi Ickert-Bond from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Deborah Lo and Virgil Fredenberg from the University of Alaska Southeast.

The team will study successful programs at other universities, such as the UTeach program at the University of Texas at Austin. The model started in 1997 as a student-focused way to recruit STEM majors and prepare them to become teachers. Now in its 20th year, Ickert-Bond said, UTeach has been implemented at 44 universities in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

Source: NSF grant aims to support STEM teacher preparation in Alaska – Alaska Business Monthly

Seven Alaskans Awarded First-ever Teach for Alaska Presidential Scholarship

FAIRBANKS – University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen awarded seven young Alaskans with the first-ever Teach for Alaska Presidential Scholarship during a video conference with them today. The competitive scholarship, part of the university’s Drive the Change public awareness initiative, was open to all Alaska high school students planning to pursue a degree in education. Scholarship recipients hail from Angoon to Nome.

‘These very talented and dedicated young people are the kind of students we want at our university,’ Johnsen said, ‘and each demonstrates a strong desire to seek a career as a teacher and to nurture the next generation of young minds. Providing support and an educational path for Alaska’s future teachers is just one of the ways the university can continue to drive change in our state. We are honored to be able to support the higher education of not only one, but seven aspiring teachers as they pursue their career goals.’

The group of seven learned this week that they had been chosen as a finalist from a pool of 21 scholarship applicants, although it wasn’t until they convened for a video conference (video available here: http://www.alaska.edu/pres/teach-for-alaska-scholars/) from their hometowns with Johnsen that they learned each had been selected for the coveted four-year academic scholarship to study teaching at one of UA’s campuses.

‘You will be the educators of the future and you will be the ones who help drive change for your generation in Alaska,’ Johnsen said in awarding the scholarships.

Read the full article and see the list of winners here.

Source: University of Alaska System (via Public) / Seven Alaskans awarded first-ever Teach for Alaska Presidential Scholarship

CAEPR Releases Report on the Cost of Teacher Turnover in Alaska

CAEPERReport
Alaska faces challenges recruiting and retaining educators, especially in its rural and remote communities. A new report, “The cost of teacher turnover in Alaska” by Dayna Jean DeFeo, Trang Tran, Diane Hirshberg, Dale Cope and Pam Cravez, details the costs associated with teacher turnover and calculates an average per-teacher cost in four categories: separation, recruitment, hiring and induction. It details actual dollars allocated to these activities and makes recommendations for policy and practice. Download the report at the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research website.

Source: CAEPR releases report on the cost of teacher turnover in Alaska – Green & Gold News