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A Well-Planned FOSS Adoption in Kenosha

Lynne Bleeker, FOSS Consultant
March 09, 2000 | FOSS in Schools

As a FOSS consultant, I have had the opportunity to work with the Kenosha Unified School District on its recent science adoption. Their adoption included primarily FOSS units. The district managed a very smooth transition to its new hands-on science curriculum with careful planning and anticipation of challenges by the district's administrators and lead teachers.

The Kenosha Unified School District is the third largest school district in the state of Wisconsin. There are approximately 10,000 students in its 24 elementary schools. Their approach to education shows the care and attention I've found to be typical of Wisconsin schools. A particularly wise move was the recruitment of five full-time science specialists ("Science Resource Teachers") to lead the pilot and adoption process and to be responsible for ongoing teacher training in science. The teachers were Jay Simonsen, Cori Mueller, Melody Orban, Barry Thomas and Jodi Goocher. They team-taught with teachers throughout the piloting and adoption process, were available for trouble-shooting, planned inservice training, and led the science reform process in ways too numerous to mention. Most importantly, they KNOW the teachers, secretaries, custodians, and principals in the schools they are working with. This has built a good level of trust and terrific accountability.

Kenosha piloted kits from FOSS, STC, Lego Dacta, BSCS TRACS, and Insights. They adopted a curriculum composed of three to four kits per grade level per year, primarily FOSS with a few STC and Lego kits as well. The Science Resource Teachers advocated a gradual phase-in. Physical Science,
Earth Science and Scientific Reasoning and Technology strand kits were implemented during the 1999–2000 school year. The Life Science strand kits were saved for the 2000–2001 school year. Their idea was to let the teachers get used to hands-on, kit-based instruction before adding in the additional challenges of acquiring, and maintaining living materials. Teachers have appreciated not having the whole new curriculum introduced in one year.

FOSS was designed to be flexible so that local and regional needs could be considered in the implementation. The Kenoshas cience resource teachers took advantage of this feature and arranged with Delta Education for custom packaging of their FOSS kits. The science resource teachers also decided to supply kits with extra and optional materials to save teachers the time and trouble of acquiring the materials themselves. Because they had piloted nearly all of the kits, the science resource teachers knew EXACTLY what was needed!

The science resource teachers offered multiple types of in-service training to prepare teachers to use the new kits with their students. They planned an optional June training day for teachers who wanted to get a jump on planning. The training was well attended. Jay Simonsen organized a weeklong Chiwaukee Academy in math and science during which the hands-on materials were used. The teachers lobbied for and got four early-dismissal days to be dedicated to science inservice. On these days, kit specific training was offered for kits that teachers were just about to receive in their buildings. Teachers who had attended summer training were offered a chance to attend other sessions on literature and technology integration with science. Some were also recruited as trainers for the half-days!

Barry Thomas agreed to run the materials warehouse and be responsible for inventory, replenishment, and shipping. Two educational assistants and the other science resource teachers help him out. (The educational assistants also work with the math program.) To prepare for the job, Barry talked with other large districts to find out how they managed the inventory process. Kenosha decided to purchase replenishment kits as part of their initial order to save time once the school year was underway. They figured it would be easier to restock out all of the consumables at one time rather than count and measure everything.

To date the science resource teachers and two assistants have managed a phenomenal 2-day turn-around on kits between schools. (I've never been anywhere else that has managed a similar feat on such a large scale.) One of Barry's great ideas is to have teachers place damaged items in a large, labeled zip bag. The warehouse staff then knows to check these items to determine if they are repairable or need replacement. Another Kenosha innovation is a system to get the kit automatically back to the warehouse for replenishment. The warehouse address is permanently affixed to the outside of the kit with a clear plastic envelope taped over it. When the kit is ready to go out, they insert a card with the name of the teacher and school where the kit is heading. When the teacher is ready to send the kit back, he or she removes the card and the kit is sent it on its way back to the warehouse for replenishment.

Kenosha has also shown a commitment to the science/literature connection by providing appropriate books to go with the science kits. Melody Orban led this process, assisted by science resource teachers, reading specialists, and others. The books are packed in plastic tubs that travel to classrooms one week after the kits. There is not room in the warehouse for all of books and the kits at the same time. Melody has also organized optional after-school workshops on the literature connection to science.

Whenever we make major changes in education, there are bound to be challenges and surprises. The Kenosha science resource teachers have built a good relationship with their fellow teachers. They have been able to put out brush fires and pull off one of the smoothest science adoptions I've seen. Wish them luck next year with all the critters in the Life Science strand (crayfish, that is, not kids!).

For more information about the Kenosha FOSS implementation, contact Barry Thomas at the Kenosha Science Resource Center (phone: 262-653-7710 or e-mail, or Lynne Bleeker at