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Summer Science Institute—A Successful Venture in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District

Maggie Ostler, FOSS District Sales Manager, Irvine, California
March 17, 2006 | Professional Development

Top image and below: Students send a long-distance message with their telegraphs in the Magnetism and Electricity module.

Newport-Mesa USD in southern California had a problem, as many districts do—how to train their teachers to be effective FOSSilitators. When they first adopted FOSS in the early '90s, they had one-day trainings for the teachers. However, because they were grouped by grade level (i.e., K–2, 3–4, and 5–6), each teacher only received a half day of training on the kits they were teaching. The trainers felt that these trainings did not meet all the teachers' needs. They wanted to give their teachers and the students of the district something more—a summer institute. Under the direction of Scott Dukes, a high school physics teacher, the three trainers, Pat Holmberg (K–2), Maggie Ostler (3–4), and Bob Kelly (5–6), developed Newport-Mesa USD's Summer Science Institute. Through the institute, teachers get hands-on FOSS training and apply their new skills and knowledge in the classroom full of students looking for summer enrichment. The original staff has come and gone, but the institute has enjoyed 14 years of success.

The institute begins with three Saturdays in June, before school is out for the summer. These include two days of training on the FOSS modules and extension activities. One of the days is a field trip related to the strand (Life Science, Earth Science, or Physical Science). For example, if the institute's emphasis is on earth science, the teachers might explore different geological sites in the county by Jay Yett, a geologist at Orange Coast College.

Students with telegraph

Once school adjourns for the summer, teachers begin their training on Monday morning and prepare their classrooms with a teaching partner in the afternoon. Tuesday is when the real fun begins!

It's 8:00 a.m., and it appears to be the first day of school, but it's June! Students arrive with their parents and excitedly look at lists to find out their room and teacher assignments. At 8:30, they say goodbye to their parents and begin their day by creating a graph or doing a "sponge" activity. They start their first investigation and record their findings in their science notebooks. Math lab is held every week. Students return home at 12:00 noon, and the teachers grab lunch to bring to their afternoon training session. These sessions include further training on the kits, math lab directions, science standards, etc. The schedule continues through Friday.The Tuesday through Friday school week continues for another two weeks. Then everyone heads off for summer vacation.

For further information, please contact Marcy Encinas, Math/Science Coordinator, Newport-Mesa Unified School District, 714.424.7570.