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By Chris Campbell, 2011 Society Fellow
I’ve been to hundreds of hours of professional development opportunities over my 11 years of teaching, but very few were as intense and rewarding as the Society Fellows Institute. I was one of ten teachers chosen from around the country to learn better ways to integrate authentic student research and receive $8,500 per year in project funding for up to four years. The format of the institute was not completely different from ones I have done before, but the intensity of it was second-to-none.
The institute started with an unconventional but effective ice-breaker: a kickball game in the shadows of Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. The venue for the event was the Donovan House hotel, which I think mirrored the eclectic personalities of the participants— teachers from all ages, personalities, backgrounds, and stages in their careers, but bonded by a passion for teaching and good senses of humor. “A Little Sweat” should have been the theme of the institute as we worked through hours of presentations and photos and meetings with senators and representatives on Capitol Hill and worked at designing a lesson plan for Vernier sensors, editing our Project Management Plans (PMP) late into the night, completing a scavenger hunt, and conquering team building challenges at Terrapin Adventures in Maryland.
I was able to meet with both Representative Rodney Alexander and Senator David Vitter from Louisiana to discuss the Society Fellowship and challenges facing STEM educators. Most of the time at the Fellows Institute was spent revising our PMPs, but we did have time to network, make an occasional visit to the rooftop pool, or walk the streets in the midst of the century anniversary celebration of Omega Psi fraternity brothers. The Institute speakers brought a wealth of knowledge and insights about effective leadership, working school research projects, business management models, and detailed project management and planning. We also received autographed copies of Success with Science: The Winner’s Guide to High School Research after a presentation by one of the authors, Shiv Gaglani.
This was without a doubt one of the most rewarding teacher institutes I have done, and I know that I have made friends for a lifetime, and that I can call on any of them to for advice and help. The Society was a fantastic host, I think that this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Society and my students. I plan to keep in touch and continue to foster relationships with the other fellows, Society staff, and presenters.