15th Symposium on Education


Why Scientists Must Move Beyond K-12 Classroom Visits to Active Participants in Professional Development Courses for Teachers

Andrea Dawn Melvin, Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and K. A. Kloesel, D. S. Arndt, L. A. Gmachl, and M. A. Shafer

When was the last time you visited a K-12 classroom? For most scientists, the answer is within the last year. The reason – your child drags you out for show-and-tell during the annual career fair day or oral report on, “My mom is a meteorologist.” While these isolated events help to provide students the opportunity to ask about different careers, these rarely impact student learning.

Schools must demonstrate improved student learning through increasing test scores. When schools fail to meet the requirements outlined by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, they lose federal funding. Educational research shows the most influential factor on student learning is teacher quality. Under NCLB, teachers must meet specific standards of teacher quality. The standards include a bachelor's degree in the content area taught, a full state certification license, and are able to demonstrate subject-matter competency in the core academic subjects taught. These requirements must be met by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.

Why is this important to scientists in general and meteorologists in particular? Only 4 out of 10 earth science classes are taught by teachers with six or more college courses in the field. For meteorology, fewer than one third of secondary earth science teachers took even one meteorology course. When surveyed, only one third of secondary teachers felt “well qualified” to teach weather and climate. This lack of content knowledge reveals the need for scientists to provide teachers opportunities to learn about meteorology. If teachers do not teach meteorology concepts in their classrooms, then how can graduating students begin college with any knowledge of atmospheric phenomena?

Scientists at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey have been involved with K-12 professional development through the EarthStorm program since 1992. This paper will focus on how the structure of the annual EarthStorm Weather Workshop and the involvement of scientists as instructors successfully tackle the need for professional development opportunities that address teacher quality and content knowledge. After the 2005 workshop, participants made the following comments:

Most helpful: “Seeing lecture topics BEFORE going on tour at the National Weather Service. This was so helpful in making me feel “knowledgeable” when I did take the tour. Bonus points for this! I liked the PhD. Speakers!”

“Learning from the meteorologists. Each one gave interesting lectures.”

“Experts sharing their enthusiasm!”

I would like to learn more about… “More about weather characteristics that have not been covered this time – especially tornadoes and hurricanes”

“More about cloud formation – what they mean – are they used to predict weather?”

Appreciations, Concerns, Suggestions: It was absolutely great – I want to come back next year!

Please make the following changes: “Have the workshop 2 weeks instead of 4 days. Maybe have a 1-day update workshop during the school year.”

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (236K)

wrf recording  Recorded presentation

Supplementary URL: http://earthstorm.ocs.ou.edu

Session 1, K-12 Education and Public Outreach Initiatives
Monday, 30 January 2006, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM, A402

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