Bringing unique resources and expertise to bear on the science education crisis, the Museum leads the development of innovative programs that test and model new approaches to teacher education and student engagement, trailblazing a new role for science-rich cultural institutions.
|Science Research Mentoring Program|
Training the Next Generation of Science Teachers
The Museum’s historic educational mission has included professional development for teachers since Museum founder Albert Bickmore introduced a zoology lecture course for New York City teachers in 1880. But in the last few decades, the Museum’s robust offerings for teachers—including online Seminars on Science as well as extensive onsite programs—have reflected an increased focus on testing innovative approaches to preparing, supporting, and retaining science teachers, whose impact in the classroom is integral to improving science education.
In December 2011, the Museum began accepting applications for a pioneering Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program with a specialization in teaching Earth and space science for grades 7 through 12, a pilot authorized by the New York State Department of Education to address a critical shortage of qualified teachers.
The first of its kind in the nation, the freestanding MAT program was co-designed by Museum scientists and educators to provide students with pedagogical training, deep knowledge of Earth and space science content, and authentic science experiences. In addition to spending a full year gaining real-world classroom experience at partner schools, MAT students learn how to practice science from Museum geologists, astrophysicists, and paleontologists through fieldwork, laboratory investigations, and training in secondary research methods.
At the core of the 15-month, full-time, fully paid teaching fellowship are two Museum-based residencies and a partnership with five schools: Murry Bergtraum High School of Business Careers in Manhattan; the Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Queens; the Thomas C. Giordano Middle School in the Bronx; and Roosevelt High School and Gorton High School in Yonkers. Candidates spend the first summer working with Museum educators; a full academic year gaining classroom experience in a partner school; and a second summer working with Museum scientists in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the Department of Astrophysics, and the Division of Paleontology in a science practicum residency.
Program coursework is taught by Museum educators and doctoral-level scientists, including a group of seven postdoctoral candidates known as the Kathryn W. Davis Postdoctoral Scholars, who have been trained in the fields of paleontology, astrophysics, and Earth science.
Graduates of the program, who commit to teaching at high-needs public schools in New York State for four years, are also offered two years of formal, early-career professional development and support, a crucial element in helping to retain new teachers.
The MAT program is co-directed by Senior Director for Education Policy Maritza Macdonald, Ed.D., and Senior Director of Science Education Rosamond Kinzler, Ph.D. The program was co-designed by, and includes faculty from, the Museum’s Division of Physical Sciences, including the Departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Astrophysics, and the Division of Paleontology.
The Davis Postdoctoral Scholars—as well as the inaugural group of 21 MAT candidates, known as the Kathryn W. Davis Graduate Teaching Fellows—are named for the generous support of the late Kathryn W. Davis, which builds on support from the New York State Education Department, awarded through a competitive grant program created with federal Race to the Top funds. The Museum also received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effectiveness of this innovative approach to teacher preparation.
Innovative Program for High School Students Expands Reach Through New Consortium
In 2013, the Museum together with the Pinkerton Foundation, an independent grant-making organization, announced the launch of a consortium of five local institutions that will expand the Museum’s innovative and successful Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP), broadening its scale and increasing its impact.
The Science Research Mentoring Program was pioneered by the Museum in 2009 with support from the National Science Foundation and NASA, as an out-of-school approach to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) preparation for high-potential, underserved high school students, to offer opportunities for participation in authentic research alongside a working scientist.
Building on extensive experience providing after-school courses for high school students, Museum educators designed a sequence that offers a solid foundation in science content, methods, and laboratory skills, followed by a summer session focused on practical training in research skills, and a one-year placement to conduct more than 120 hours of authentic research with a Museum scientist in life sciences, Earth and planetary sciences, or anthropology. The program also includes college-preparation activities such as college counseling and visits.
In fiscal year 2012, SRMP graduates’ research projects ranged from discovering ancient ants and termites in 52-million-year-old amber to looking for correlations between certain M-dwarf stars and the likelihood of finding exoplanets orbiting them. In fiscal year 2013, SRMP students’ research included studying invertebrates caught off Long Island’s North Shore; using computer models to analyze whether long-lived vortices in accretion disks around newborn stars may function as incubators of forming planets; and classifying amphibians and reptiles collected in Vietnam. The 12th-graders among the 2012 and 2013 graduates were accepted into undergraduate programs that included those at Barnard College, Brown University, City University of New York, and Columbia University, among others.
The consortium will engage increased numbers of high-achieving, high potential New York City high school students in programs unique to each partner institution, broadening areas of study for students to include math, engineering, environmental science, and neuroscience, and guided by the same set of core principles and best practices identified by the Museum.
The consortium partners include City University of New York (CUNY) Lehman/College Now Program; Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly); Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, DNA Learning Center; Wave Hill; and Columbia University-Mind Brain Behavior Initiative, Neuroscience Outreach.
In fiscal year 2013, the Science Research Mentoring Consortium began developing and implementing new program elements to benefit students across the partner institutions; creating shared assets including curricula, mentor training, and college preparation materials; and recruiting high-potential students to the program.