2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

July/August 2006

Field Notes

Educators share how they are using Project 2061 tools

This 2061 Connections report continues a series in which educators express their thoughts about how they are using AAAS Project 2061 reform tools to improve science and mathematics education.

Finding the Missing Link in Elkhart, Indiana

In the initial year of my new position as one of two Master Science Teachers for Elkhart Community Schools in Elkhart, Indiana, my title may be “Master Science Teacher,” but I sometimes think that the sign on my door should read, “Caution: Master Science Teacher in Training.”

[PHOTO] Danaé Wirth
Danaé Wirth

My work is being funded through a Math Science Partnership (MSP) grant in which the Elkhart school system, the non-profit science organization ETHOS (Encouraging Technology and Hands On Science), and Purdue University have partnered to positively influence science education reform in Northern Indiana. One of my most challenging and fulfilling responsibilities in this assignment is to direct a committee responsible for developing “Power Indicators”—the essential standards taken at each grade level from the larger group of state science standards—for our local school system.

Although I am familiar with the science standards for Indiana, I had not looked at each grade level in sufficient depth to know the progression of concept skills or grade-level content, so I quickly found myself in a crash course of “STANDARDS 101.” A senior colleague suggested I begin with a look at national science learning goals and introduced me to three Project 2061 publications: Designs for Science Literacy, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and Science for All Americans. These resources led me to become interested in an additional Project 2061 publication, the Atlas of Science Literacy. But trying to decipher the Atlas growth-of-understanding maps was like attempting to understand hieroglyphics! As you might have guessed, I am of the audio/kinesthetic learning persuasion and concept maps are not my forte.

Believing that support could be very valuable in helping me to better understand and use the Atlas, I went online to the Project 2061 Web site and completed an application for a scholarship to attend an Atlas workshop. I was surprised and delighted to be selected as a recipient for a three-day Atlas workshop in Washington, DC, this past March. I was eager for the chance to explore Atlas, to learn about its features, and to see how I could apply it as a resource for my current responsibilities as a Master Science Teacher.

In fact, the workshop proved to be so valuable and provided so much information to think about regarding science learning goals that it was almost overwhelming! It was the missing link that connected the knowledge I had gained from state and national standards, other Project 2061 publications, and science literacy pedagogy. I had never before seen the entire context of science literacy, which gave me more of a view of what we’re really trying to do with science education—it was more than just standards. I finally felt I had a comprehensive view of K–12 science education and I resolved to develop power indicators that were sound in content, developmentally appropriate, and progressive enough to align with national learning goals. After several more months of back and forth e-mails and electronic and in-person meetings of the committee, I believe that our committee produced a strong document that accomplished all of these goals.

Achieving a greater understanding of how I could use the Atlas of Science Literacy and how to make the most of other Project 2061 publications helped me to streamline the task of developing curriculum goals and implementing programs that foster science literacy. I am convinced that the work done by AAAS Project 2061 is invaluable to science education reform, and speaking for this “Master Science Teacher in Training,” my challenges are a little easier to meet, thanks to their resources.

Danaé Wirth

Danaé Wirth has been with the Elkhart School System for five years, as a first grade teacher, a cohort teacher for the Indiana Math Initiative, a Reading Recovery teacher, and now a Master Science Teacher.

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To learn more about Project 2061’s scholarship program for the "Using Atlas of Science Literacy" workshop, visit the workshop pages on Project2061.org.

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