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Asking the Right Questions

Education department works with New Hampshire teachers

Faculty and staff at Dartmouth have been working for the past year with classroom teachers at numerous elementary schools in New Hampshire. The program focused on improving inquiry-based science instruction, a process where teachers work with students to gather information by asking questions, design and conduct activities that answer the questions, and then follow up with new questions to further their understanding of science.

Judith Filkins and Janet Zullo
Judith Filkins (left) and Janet "Zooey" Zullo helped spearhead the outreach to regional science teachers. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

In a partnership that also included Project Learning Tree, Four Winds Nature Institute, and Synergy Learning, the collaborative reached more than 25 teachers in the Goshen, Lempster, Claremont, Mascoma, Newport, and Lebanon school districts. The initiative was funded by the N.H. Department of Education.

"This regional science partnership complemented and expanded on other professional development opportunities in the school districts," says Janet "Zooey" Zullo, the supervisor of the elementary teacher education program in Dartmouth's education department who worked as an advisor and a workshop leader on the project. "Our workshops focused on physical science, earth science, and astronomy." All the teachers who took part will celebrate their accomplishments with a presentation or a poster display at a day-long symposium for the participants on Saturday, Jan. 6, at Dartmouth, hosted by the College's Department of Education.

Judith Filkins, who spearheaded the project by helping to secure funding, is the math and science curriculum coordinator for the Lebanon School District.
"Our teachers were looking to refresh their content knowledge and get new ideas about how to help students develop inquiry skills and apply new conceptual understandings in real-world settings," says Filkins. "The teachers received outstanding support developing units focused on the new New Hampshire Science Frameworks and have brought a renewed excitement to their lessons." The revised New Hampshire Frameworks for Science Literacy was approved in June by the State Board of Education. The revisions include incorporating "inquiry" into all topic areas.

Zullo and Filkins called upon the expertise of many colleagues at Dartmouth, working with the Departments of Education and Physics and Astronomy, and Thayer School of Engineering.

"Dartmouth faculty and staff were very generous with their advice, time, and resources," says Filkins.

For example, Aaron Dotter, a graduate student in physics and astronomy, worked with a team of fifth grade teachers to create a unit on astronomy. Dotter traveled to classrooms to speak with students, and he hosted trips to the Shattuck Observatory at Dartmouth where students and teachers viewed stars and planets. Zullo says that Dotter's knowledge and experience brought the new unit to life.

"We all profited immensely from the collaboration and dialogue," says Zullo. "We hope to get renewed funding to continue this collaboration. It has been an example of outreach at its best."

By SUSAN KNAPP

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Last Updated: 12/17/08