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Example: Project RE-SEED

Retirees Enhancing Science Education Through Experiments and Demonstrations

Key Features

In 1991, RE-SEED (Retirees Enhancing Science Education through Experiments and Demonstrations) trained a total of six retired engineers and scientists to become Science Resource Agents (SRAs) for middle school physical science teachers in the New England region. Today, RE-SEED has trained a total of 250 volunteer retirees as SRAs, 150 of whom are in active service. And the project is busy replicating its program at new sites across the country and abroad (Atlanta; Denver; Portland; Oregon; and Stockholm).

The training program for SRAs is notable. Retirees are required to take 12 days of it or about 66 class hours before being matched with a teacher-partner and students in actual schools. Training is often conducted by the 35 retirees who have received special training to be leaders. The focus is less on the pre-existing content knowledge of the retirees and more on pedagogical questions and research on what we know about how children learn.

The founders of RE-SEED, Drs.Alan Cromer and Christos Zahopoulos of Northeastern University, are also founders of Project SEED, designed to teach middle school physical science teachers inquiry-centered, activity-based approaches.

Becoming Involved

  • RE-SEED offers retired scientists an opportunity to become Science Resource Agents, using their technical knowledge and experience to support teachers and work with children. For some, it offers the opportunity to leverage their efforts by training other scientists to do the same.
  • Scientists connected to organizations or institutions outside of New England have the opportunity to help RE-SEED scale up to include new sites.
  • Scientists in disciplines other than the physical sciences (e.g. in the life sciences, earth sciences, and astronomy) could use the RE-SEED model for involving qualified retirees in science education partnerships.
  • For educators involved in systemic reform of science education, RE-SEED provides a model for using a valuable and often untapped resource (qualified retirees) to support teachers as they learn new ways to teach science that require scientific habits of mind and ways of thinking, as well as deeper understanding of science content.

Overview

Goals. Project RE-SEED has two goals:

  • To provide regular science content support in the physical sciences to middle school teachers who often experience gaps between their preparation as teachers and the science knowledge they need in the classroom
  • To draw on the large reservoir of retired science and technology professionals who have valuable knowledge, experience, and time

Impact of Program

Students. The ultimate benefactors of RE-SEED are students. It has been documented that the project's mature, well-trained scientists and engineers are helping guide students to learn science concepts and facts as well as the scientific habits of mind and ways of thinking. Also, real world relationships seem to become clearer to the students because of the deep appreciation for relevance that the project's retirees have acquired over the course of long careers. Students also tell evaluators that they are inspired to learn science by the presence of the RE-SEED volunteers.

Teachers say RE-SEED retirees help them become more prepared to teach science by being content resources and by modeling what scientists do and how they think. Surveys show that the teachers also feel inspired, develop more confidence as well as understanding, and appreciate the extra pair of skilled hands and highly schooled minds.

Participating Scientists find their work in the classrooms intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding. Roughly 75% return the following year. Of those who don't, about half are unable to due to circumstances such as moving to Florida or returning to work. Many of the retirees have been recognized by their schools, their communities, and even by their town officials. Numerous articles have been written about them in the local and national press. Some retirees find a whole new life as a SRA and spend a significant portion of each week building equipment and otherwise preparing for their day in school.

Details

Retiree Roles. In acting as Science Resource Agents (SRAs) in support of middle-school physical science teachers, RE-SEED retirees form true partnerships with the teachers with whom they are placed, planning jointly the ways they will participate in the teachers' classrooms.

The SRAs come equipped with demonstrations and hands-on, inquiry-centered activities for students, all of which they have been trained in and for which they receive the Project SEED Kit and the Project SEED Sourcebook of Demonstrations, Activities, and Experiments . The kit contains about 40 kinds of tools and instruments, from alcohol lamps and carbon batteries to plastic trays and glass vials.

SRAs often also supply to students a variety of simple, expendable materials, such as paper clips and fasteners, salt, sand, and vinegar, as well as additional equipment they might have on hand from a lifetime of work in science and/or engineering.

Because middle-school science teachers often teach as many as five or six classes in a single day, the SRAs have an impact on far more children than they might if working in an elementary school.

Instructional Program: Teacher Roles.Teachers plan with their SRAs what the SRAs will do in the classroom and when. They are present in the classroom when the SRAs are doing demonstrations or leading activities and investigations, both because it is usually required by law and because it is intended that teachers will learn more science content and scientific habits of mind and ways of thinking by careful observation and participation in these sessions. Teachers are also encouraged to use their SRAs as content resources outside the classroom.

RE-SEED Instructional Materials. All the demonstrations, activities, and experiments are drawn from a Sourcebook of roughly 200 such activities, largely in physics. RE-SEED retirees are also supplied with a basic kit of materials and 17 one-hour videotapes of the two developers of the Sourcebook modeling the teaching of various of the activities.

Details

RE-SEED Retiree Recruitment, Training, and Placement. Retirees are recruited from industry and academia, are trained for 12 full days to become SRAs, and are then placed with teacher-partners in schools in areas of the retirees' choice.

Details

RE-SEED School and Teacher Recruitment. RE-SEED staff keeps a running list of schools that request volunteers. Schools customarily contribute a small amount of funds to RE-SEED for each retiree placed to help defray the cost of training SRAs and operating the program.

Details

RE-SEED Leaders. Some of the most effective SRAs receive 10 additional days of training and become leaders who train other retirees.

Details

Going National, and More. Although RE-SEED is creating or planning to create new Regional Centers for recruitment, training, and placement in Atlanta, Denver, Portland, Oregon, and Stockholm, overall direction and leader training will continue to take place at RE-SEED headquarters in Boston.

Details

Organizational Information and Contacts. The driving forces behind RE-SEED continue to be its founders, Northeastern University physicist Alan Cromer and engineer Christos Zahopoulos. The project has been supported principally by the National Science Foundation and the Noyce Foundation. This Detail also contains a chronology of RE-SEED.

Details


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