Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum
Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum
Workshops 6 and 7
Workshops 6 and 7
Scott's Pathfinder unit is a part of a new science curriculum which has emerged in response to Kentucky's statewide testing (KIRIS). The testing exposed certain gaps in the science curriculum, specifically with respect to space science, earth science, and meteorology. Scott has included these areas in an integrated science course and developed the Pathfinder unit as part of the space science component.
Study of the Mars Pathfinder mission allows students to delve deeply into contemporary issues of space exploration, ethics and budgetary considerations. By focusing on the Pathfinder mission, students learn specifics about Mars which can then be applied generally to knowledge of the other planets, addressing the content areas of chemistry, geology and atmospheric sciences.
Before beginning their research, the students are told that they will present their findings by participating in a simulated press conference. They identify the various roles that they might play in the press conference (e.g., journalist, NASA spokesperson, geologist, atmospheric scientist, controller of the Sojourner rover) and are assigned their roles through random selection. As they conduct their research, using print materials and web-based resources, they focus on the Pathfinder mission from the particular perspectives of the roles they have assumed.
As they continue their research and preparation for the press conference, the students keep detailed journals on their progress. Their journal entries address the following: what new facts they learn, how well they are progressing on the development of their roles (individually), and how well the group is progressing. This last question allows the students to assess not only their individual practice but that of their peers and to place themselves within the context of the group.
In the development of this project, Scott conferred with three groups of colleagues. He first shared his plans with his sophomore team which consists of an English teacher, a math teacher, a social studies teacher, and Scott, the science teacher. The team meets weekly, and has done so for four years, in order to share the development of new ideas and to provide support for changing practice. In addition, Scott belongs to two Critical Friends Groups. One is a group of teachers and administrators at Fairdale who meet monthly to review each others work. They meet in smaller groups for class observations and feedback. The other CFG is coordinated through the University of Louisville and consists of teachers at every grade level, from elementary through University professors. Scott relied on each of these groups for honest, specific, and supportive criticism as he refined the Pathfinder unit.