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Common Core teachers use museums as a resource

FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2014 12:13 PM

The Common Core State Standards have emphasized the need to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math (collectively known as STEM) in schools. As a result, individual states, districts and teachers have worked to come up with hands-on lesson ideas to educate their students about the complexities of STEM. Now more teachers are finding support for applying the subjects from museums. 

Providing teacher programs
More museums that focus on scientific education are offering teachers unique opportunities to discover classroom tools. For example, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago instructs teachers working with fourth- through eighth-grade classes on strategies for teaching hands-on science lessons. These classes are free for the teachers, and the program even offers reimbursement for the days they took off work. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, teacher Laura Gluckman used the ideas she got from the program in her own classroom. She was giving a lesson on seismic waves, and wanted her students to have a visual representation of the concepts on which she taught. While taking the classes at the Museum of Science and Industry, Gluckman learned to place a tuning fork into a cup of water. The vibrations from the fork caused the water to ripple, giving the students a visible representation of the way energy moves in liquids. 

"It definitely cemented those ideas and those concepts for them more than just a lecture would," she told the source.

Classes are effective
A study conducted by the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University scrutinized the Science and Industry courses to determine whether or not the classes actually helped teachers educate more effectively. Half of the teachers who volunteered for the study attended the museum programs while the other half did not. The researchers then administered a test to both the teachers and their students. They found that the teachers who took the classes developed a greater understanding of the science lessons they taught, and that their students learned better as well, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Filling the need
Because so many states have adopted the Standards, more teachers want the support and aid they need to help students measure up. Hank Gruner, a vice president at the Connecticut Science Center, notes that museum-led professional programs aren't a new concept, there's just more interest

"I do think you're going to see more centers starting to look at professional development now that there will be more of a need for it," Gruner told Education Week.