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A summer of learning: Teachers share hands-on research experiences

Teachers gave an overview of their time in research programs at the 2017 Research Teachers Conference. PHOTO COURTESY OF SOCIETY FOR SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC.

Many students may often wonder what teachers do during the summer when school isn’t in session. All teachers should enjoy a well-deserved break, but as three teachers recently shared at the 2017 Research Teachers Conference, sponsored by Regeneron, summer is a great opportunity to get hands-on research experience that can then be used in classroom the following year.

During one of the dozens of informative breakout sessions that took place during the conference, science teachers James Earley, Susie Edens, and Phoebe Lawings gave an overview of their time in research programs for teachers and how it has helped them support student research.

James Earley, Excel Academy, Arvada, Colorado:
In 2011 and 2012, James worked in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program, a program of the National Science Foundation, at the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, NM. In 2011, he was in Sunspot collecting and calibrating Calcium K-line data. In 2012, he worked at Kitt Peak in Tucson, AZ, downloading satellite data of solar flares and looking for acoustic signatures in those flares.

Programs like the ones James participated in can help teachers make connections in the scientific community, he said. “You gain lab and field experience, and have an authentic voice as a scientist when preparing your students,” James said. “You’re doing science—how cool is that?”

Learn more about the Research Teachers Conference.

Susie Edens, Pontotoc Technology Center, Stillwater, Oklahoma: Over two summers, Susie participated in the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Noble Research Foundation research programs, working alongside professional scientists. “Both offered unique experiences and benefits me greatly,” Susie said. The experiences “strengthened and added to my content knowledge in areas I was not quite as strong in,” and gave her new ideas for developing curriculum, classroom activities and even science fair projects.  “It gave me time to satisfy my curiosity,” she said.  Susie made connections with mentors and applied what she learned to her classes, which was her ultimate goal.

Phoebe Lawing, Stuart W. Cramer High School, Belmont, North Carolina:
Phoebe participated in the Research Experiences for STEM Educators and Teachers (RESET) program at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, MS. Working with a cohort of other teachers, as well as scientists and engineers from the U.S. Department of Defense , Phoebe was able to bring back many applicable lessons to her classroom, including a lab where students examine whether they can manipulate fish behavior using sound.

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