Saturday, October 22, 7-11pm
On the first day of school this fall, thousands of teachers could have written riveting essays about how they spent their summer vacations. Over the past 21 years, even more have spent their summers at the Exploratorium, where they learned science and how to present science in action at the country’s first and longest running professional development program for teachers. Now the Exploratorium is taking this opportunity to celebrate its Teacher Institute’s coming of age. On Saturday, October 22, 2005, the Exploratorium Teacher Institute will be celebrating 21 years of support to thousands of middle and high school science teachers throughout the Bay Area, California, and beyond. The evening celebration, which is by invitation only and where 500 science teachers are expected to gather, will occur at the Exploratorium from 7pm to 11pm. There will be dessert, wine, music, presentations, surprises, and… science, of course. No kids are invited.
Of particular delight will be a special live Iron Science Teacher, a take-off on the popular Iron Chef television show, webcast internationally, and according to The New York Times, “ the most high profile element of the Exploratorium’s Teacher Institute. Iron Science Teacher is wacky slapstick entertainment with a serious mission, to help science teachers learn to present a scientific principle with spellbinding panache – and with materials that could be bought for a few dollars at any supermarket. The program also gives teachers, who rarely get to show off their talents, a shot at a brief moment in the spotlight.”
Guests to the celebration are those who are walking driving or flying in from among the over 1800 science teachers active in Exploratorium Teacher Institute professional development program, as well as the over 100 novices and veteran teachers currently participating in the Beginning Teacher Program and Teacher Leadership Program. In a recent blind survey, the Teacher institute was rate the top science education resource in Northern California.
Others include superintendents and school administrators from the Bay Area districts served, members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representatives from the California State Assembly and California Department of Education, members of the Exploratorium’s Board of Directors, and representatives from private, corporate, and governmental foundations that have provided financial support for the Teacher Institute.
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The Exploratorium Teacher Institute
The Exploratorium Teacher Institute was officially launched in 1984 as a professional development program for local high school physics teachers looking to provide their students with more hands-on, experiential learning experiences. To date, there are 1800 active alumni. As the program’s reputation for high quality professional development grew and the numbers of applicants increased, the Teacher Institute developed additional and more specific programs to meet the needs of middle school science teachers, biology teachers, earth science teachers, and mathematics teachers.
Middle and high school science teachers who participate in an intensive, 4-week (110 hour) Introductory Summer Institute at the museum become TI alumni and can return to the Exploratorium for weekend workshops and advanced summer institutes throughout their careers. The Exploratorium Teacher Institute is now the professional home to well over 1800 alumni – many of whom have been active participants for 10 years and more.
Other resources are available to TI alumni, including access to materials housed in the Exploratorium’s Teacher Resource Library, web-based teaching tools, a TI list serve, and on going consultation and advice from museum scientists and science educators.
The Exploratorium Teacher Institute has also extended its reach well beyond the districts in the Bay Area. A large number of alumni teachers currently work throughout the state – from San Diego to Redding. Each year, the program also accepts over a dozen science teachers from outside of California to join the institute. These science teachers are selected based on their demonstrated ability to disseminate Exploratorium approaches and activities to their colleagues.
The majority of science teachers in the program serve low-income, disadvantaged students. Many of the public schools directly served have large numbers of students with limited English skills. These schools also serve minority students traditionally under-represented in the sciences. Bay Area counties served include San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara. All teachers participating in programs receive stipends for their attendance and college credit is available from San Francisco State University and the University of the Pacific.
The Exploratorium Teacher Induction Program
In 1998, the Teacher Institute (TI) noticed a sharp increase in the number of beginning science teachers applying to its programs. TI also found that many of its most experienced alumni were retiring from classroom teaching but were eager to mentor other science teachers and continue their association with the Exploratorium.
The Exploratorium took the opportunity presented by this “changing of the guard” to create a 2-year program for novice science teachers (TI Beginning Teacher Program) and another 2-year program designed to train and support experienced TI alumni who would serve as their mentors (TI Teacher Leadership Program).
The two programs together make up the Exploratorium Teacher Induction Program – the first induction program in the country to provide science-specific induction support to novice science teachers and science-specific training to their mentors. Since 1998, over 250 novice middle and high school science teachers have been supported through the program.
The TI Beginning Teacher Program includes science content workshops, pedagogy workshops, support group meetings, in-class coaching, and participation in the introductory summer institute. Novices who complete a minimum of 180 hours of support over 2-years become alumni of the Teacher Institute and are eligible for lifelong support through the Exploratorium.
The TI Leadership program includes a 4-week Summer Leadership Institute and academic year support for a select group of exemplary veteran science teachers serving as mentors and classroom coaches to the novices.
The Exploratorium Teacher Induction Program boasts an impressive retention rate. Both national and local statistics on teacher attrition suggest that well over 50% of beginning science teachers will drop out of the profession within their first two years of teaching. Only 10% of the novices participating in the Exploratorium’s Teacher Induction Program leave science teaching after two years. Moreover, over 80% complete the program requirements and become alumni of the Exploratorium Teacher Institute.
Generous financial support for the Exploratorium Teacher Institute currently comes from the following: The National Science Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Bank of America, the Amgen Foundation, the Wells Fargo Foundation, and the California Math and Science Partnerships.