Partnership Linking Formal/Informal Education

  • Project Description

    Washington University faculty and staff in partnership with educators from the St. Louis Science Center the Missouri Botanical Garden and the St. Louis Zoo, will generate eight inquiry-based instructional units that are designed to link formal classroom instruction with the investigative learning environments of these informal science education institutions. This project uses the expertise of both the formal and informal environments to create experiences that enhance the biology curricula of middle and high school classrooms.

  • Abstract

    Washington University in St. Louis (WU) faculty members and the staff of the WU Science Outreach office will join with educators from the major informal science institutions (ISIs) of St. Louis, namely the St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Zoo, and the Missouri Botanical Garden, to generate eight inquiry-based instructional units designed to achieve a powerful synergy between formal (classroom-based) and informal (ISI-based) investigative learning experiences.

    The eight biological and biomedical topics selected for these units have each been chosen to exploit the distinctive educational resources available at these three outstanding ISIs while at the same time addressing urgent needs articulated by local teachers who are concerned about meeting the new National Science Education Standards (NSES).

    Each unit will be produced in vertically integrated middle school and high school versions and will be designed to help teachers convey the “big ideas” in one of the major topic areas identified in the NSES using an investigatory approach and exploiting the resources of one of the ISIs to engage student interest and augment the classroom investigations. Each unit will be developed by a team comprising the Principal Investigator (PI) the co-Director the Program Coordinator, a WU faculty expert a staff member from the participating ISI, a middle school and a high school teacher, a WU graduate student, and the program evaluator.

    As units become ready for field testing, each will be introduced to a group of cooperating teachers at a workshop (held at the participating ISD in which they will preview the investigations that will be available for their students at the ISI and in the classroom, hear a presentation by a WU faculty member about recent and prospective research advances in the topic area, and will also have an opportunity to network with one another.

    Each of the teachers will leave the workshop with all of the written materials (teacher and student versions), supples, ISI contacts, etc. that will be required to implement the unit in the classroom without undue delay. Professional evaluations of various types will be made at all stages of development testing and revision of each unit with major emphasis being placed on evaluating the educational impact.

Project Audience

Middle and high school teachers and their students

Subjects Addressed

Science, biology, physics, environment, Earth science, neuroscience, weather,