40 Chicago Public School Teachers Learn to Put AWE into 'Awful' Science Subjects

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Beginning June 26, 40 science teachers from Chicago Public Schools will learn to infuse awe into “awful” science subjects like chemistry, physics and biology that too often leave students uninspired. Through a three-week training intensive, dubbed “Creating a Critical Mass for a Chain Reaction of Change,” Dr. Zafra Lerman, of the Institute for Science Education and Science Communication at Columbia College Chicago, will provide teachers with ideas on how to incorporate the arts into their science teaching and assessment plans so their subjects will come alive.

Beginning June 26, 40 science teachers from Chicago Public Schools will learn to infuse awe into “awful” science subjects like chemistry, physics and biology that too often leave students uninspired.

Through a three-week training intensive, dubbed “Creating a Critical Mass for a Chain Reaction of Change,” the Institute for Science Education and Science Communication at Columbia College Chicago will provide teachers with ideas on how to incorporate the arts into their science teaching and assessment plans so their subjects will come alive.

The goal is to inspire science teachers and help lift the downward trend in the national average of 6th to 12th grade science scores. According to studies by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 18% of high school seniors have demonstrated a proficiency in science.

This is the 17th summer of teaching science through the arts for the groundbreaking institute founded by Dr. Zafra Lerman, distinguished professor of science and public policy at Columbia College, as well as founder of Columbia’s Department of Science and Mathematics.

Lerman’s widely recognized integrated approach to teaching science blends art, music, dance and theater with scientific concepts. The winner of countless awards for her teaching and activism as a scientist, Dr. Lerman was honored last year with the Ronald Nyholm Lectureship Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in England.

In announcing the award, the Royal Society called Lerman “an ebullient teacher, (who has) pioneered new educational techniques, making science literacy available to young people everywhere and brought the joys of science to many thousands of students.”

Among her other awards for excellence in science teaching are the Women with Vision Award for Academics from the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the White House.

Lerman, faced with the challenge of teaching science to art students when she joined Columbia College in 1977, created a unique and highly successful methodology that allows the students to connect with science through their own art form, cultural background or interest. A music major once wrote a song about chemical reactions in the brain, depression and antidepressants drugs, while a dance student created a ballet based on the structure of an atom.

This summer’s workshop takes the inverse approach by teaching science teachers the creative art connections to their disciplines.

Today, the Institute for Science Education and Science Communication at Columbia College Chicago has conducted research in collaboration with Northwestern University and Duke University, and many institutions worldwide have adopted its curriculum and methods. In 2000, the National Science Foundation and the Joyce Foundation granted $1.5 million to the Science Institute to bring workshops to Chicago public school teachers. Last year, the institute also received the Heuer Award for outstanding achievement in undergraduate science education from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC).

Lerman, whose passion even as a young girl was science, received both her bachelor’s of science and her master’s of science degrees in chemistry from The Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. She later studied at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel, where she received her Ph.D. in chemistry.

Members of the media are invited to attend a session of the workshop and the final presentation by the teachers of projects integrating art and science on July 14, which will be attended by the American Chemical Society President Ann Nalley. Dr. Lerman will also be in attendance for comment.

WHAT:     2006 Physical Science Workshops for Teachers

Creating a Critical Mass for a Chain Reaction of Change

WHEN:     Weekdays, Monday, June 26 through Friday, July 14, 2006; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Columbia College Chicago,

Science Institute Lab,

623 S. Wabash Ave., Room 515

Chicago

FINAL PRESENTATION (MEDIA AND PHOTO OPPORTUNITY)

WHAT:     Teachers will present high-energy packed original playlets, songs and dances to demonstrate alternative methods of teaching and assessing science.

WHEN:     Friday, July 14, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Columbia College Chicago

Hokin Hall Auditorium

623 S. Wabash Ave. (First floor)

Chicago

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Robyn Velasquez
Institute for Science Education and Science Communication at
312.464.9660
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