ESWP’s success is linked to the high quality professional development opportunities that were provided to teachers via week-long summer institutes and through afterschool video conferencing giving the teachers in isolated communities the opportunity to interact with colleagues on a regular basis.
While creating the programs ESWP staff worked closely with the Inyo County Office of Education (ICOE) in the recruitment of teachers, dissemination of the project goals, the incorporation of content standards, and multi-cultural pedagogy. Teacher professional development took place through intensive summer institutes then continued throughout the school year by the use of videoconferencing, connecting participating teachers throughout Inyo County. The ICOE staff was instrumental in coordination and facilitation of the teacher professional development institutes and after-school videoconferencing.
- Align curriculum and assessment with standards
- Use hands-on, inquiry approaches to teaching
- Use strategies for helping students develop academic language
- Use research-based strategies to help students build deeper content understanding
- Increase awareness of multicultural issues in science education
- Develop familiarity with scientific tools that can be used in the field for monitoring
- Use strategies for addressing language learners in the science classroom.
After school follow-up meetings: Middle school teachers who participated in the Watershed Project met after school to reflect on their science teaching practice. They shared specific ideas for teaching concepts to their students as well as strategies for working with struggling students. Using the book Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (Marzano et al), teachers tried a new strategy each month with their students, and shared their observations and reflections with their colleagues. Because schools in Inyo County are spread over such a wide geographical area, teachers assembled at two sites, one in Bishop and one in Independence. Videoconferencing units in each location allowed the teachers to join for the meetings. The Inyo County Office of Education facilitated and guided the teachers’ work at the follow-up sessions. As teachers developed lessons and activities connected with the Watershed Program, they shared their work with their colleagues. Over time these teacher-created lessons become part of the program’s curriculum.
The following is one response from a teacher when asked to reflect on ESWP middle school program “The Eastern Sierra Watershed Project made my science classroom so much more fun and engaging for the kids and so satisfying for me as a teacher. I appreciated so very much the classroom science kits and activities provided by ESWP and all of the work that was done that made it possible for me to bring this curriculum to huge classes. The follow up meetings were rare times for professional reflection, sharing, and growing. In my 22 years of teaching and many exceptional opportunities for all kinds of professional growth over the years, ESWP was one of the best professional growth experiences I have had. Everything about it enriched not only my life as a teacher, but through my enrichment and the activities themselves, the lives and experiences of the students.”