Kathie Pfeffer-Hahn and Jennifer Walker attended the Elementary Science Institute at George Mason in June and July, where they concentrated on marine science and bringing innovative teaching methods back to the classroom, said a spokesman for The Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA).
Funded by one of the biggest grants ever awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) teaches teachers how to shift from the traditional lecture-led classroom to problem-based learning. Problem-based learning is about examining “real world” problems and thinking like scientists to find solutions.
Since 2011, the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) has conducted Elementary Science Institutes, which are held at four sites across the state, to encourage students and teachers to work as scientific investigators and use innovative, critical thinking to help solve society’s most complex issues.
The institutes begin by teaching educators how to present a specific problem to students and by developing a scenario to engage students in a process to solve it.
The institutes also include a two-week embedded camp for students with high needs from local schools. The camp allows the VISTA-trained teachers to experience working with real students on timely and engaging issues.
In addition to the free, four-week program, each teacher receives a $5,000 stipend; $1,000 in teaching resources, science materials, and web content for their classrooms; a master teacher assigned to coach them in the new teaching method throughout the school year; and a trip to the Virginia Association of Science Teachers Professional Development Institute in the fall.
Photo: Katie Pfeffer-Hahn (left) and Jennifer Walker on the George Mason campus/Credit: Lauren Wright