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Alaska teachers take a STEP into science

Submitted by Amy Hartley
Phone: 907-474-5823


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Forty-two teachers from across the state have traveled to Fairbanks to learn how Geophysical Institute research can be used in their K-12 classrooms. The teachers are participating in STEP, the institute's Science Teacher Education Program that runs June 8-19, 2009.

In short, STEP connects Alaska teachers with scientists and educational professionals in a two-week-long summer institute. Inspired by the recent eruptions of Redoubt Volcano, all lectures and activities during the 2009 institute are associated with volcanology. Teachers will learn about volcanic ash detection, geothermal energy, remote sensing and more, all the while taking part in a variety of fieldwork activities.

"Nobody knows the needs of Alaska's teachers better than Alaska's teachers," said Kathy Bertram, the STEP principal investigator and director of the Geophysical Institute's Information and Education Outreach Office. "STEP allows teachers to learn Alaska-specific science."

During the institute, teachers will mesh lecture information, fieldwork experiences and methodology into sound classroom science lessons of their own design. These lessons will be edited by Alaska Science Consortium Fellows, expert science teachers, who will ensure lessons are engaging, relevant and aligned with Alaska's grade-level expectations.

Since 2006, more than 130 teachers have traveled to the Geophysical Institute during the summer to take part in STEP. Over the years, teachers' lessons were compiled and are now available at the STEP Web site for free. Now any teacher can visit the site, search for lessons by key words, grade level, or Alaska grade-level expectations and locate lessons for their own classroom. The STEP site is available at www.stepalaska.org.

This is STEP's final year, but its online lesson bank will sustain the program, in addition to a new online course to be developed this summer. Eleven of the STEP teachers will create an online course, with assistance from assistant professor Ute Kaden of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Education. The course will incorporate STEP materials and methodology and will be designed for preservice teachers attending UAF. The course will be available spring semester 2010.

The Science Teacher Education Program is coordinated by staff at the Geophysical Institute, and funded by the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development.

Media are welcome to attend all portions of the STEP Summer Institute, including fieldwork activities in Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs.

CONTACT: Geophysical Institute Information and Education Outreach Office at 907-474-7558.

ON THE WEB: www.stepalaska.org