Using Animals Specimens for Teacher Education

One of the missions of the Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE) is to help prepare teachers of science of all grade levels. However, most early and elementary childhood pre-educators graduate from their program with a less-than-solid scientific understanding, based on their K-12 experience in conjunction with their teacher education programs (Kelly, 2009). Furthermore, according to Akerson, Cullen and Hanson (2009), the majority of elementary teacher preparation programs do not offer a Nature of Science (NOS) course, which is critical to truly understanding how science is truly practiced (Lederman, 1999), a focus of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The purpose of this workshop is to share methods used at Boston University’s teacher education program, to prepare future teachers of young children. I am currently a full-time Assistant Professor in Boston University’s Early Childhood program, with a focus on Science Education. My role is to prepare pre-service educators to teach science effectively to young children, and discover their own sense of love and participation in science. This involves engaging them in activities that allow them to practice science, first hand, in accordance to the NGSS. The workshop will primary focus on the use of animal specimens that are widely available through most college’s biology departments, but often unused by teacher education programs. Participants in this workshop will get to take part in activities used to engage pre-service educators, using animal specimens that cultivate discussions, questions, argumentation, and then document observations.

Workshop objectives:
• Participants will gain specific ideas on how to engage students in teacher education programs in scientific practices (NGSS practices)
• Participants will gain ideas on how to nurture observation and inquiry in a pre-service education classroom using animal specimens
• Participants will develop their own scientific knowledge and engage in scientific practices

Outline of Workshop
• Introductions: Sharing information about myself and my work with educators. Address some of the challenges of teaching science to early childhood and elementary educators.

• What is it? This activity will encourage participants to ask questions, and construct an argument to support their ideas. Participants are encouraged to observe, and guess what the animal may be, when presented with unidentified skeletons. Aside from cultivating NGSS scientific practices, the activity also allows educators to see how powerful scientific observations can be when presented with the unknown.

• I Never Noticed… Participants are asked to observe a seemingly familiar animal specimen. They are encouraged to think and communicate about this specimen, which they might not have observed before. The purpose of this activity is to teach participants how to engage future educators in observations of familiar objectives and encourage them to build on their preconceptions.

• They are the same… Applying the work of Wynne Harlen (2001) on guiding observations, participants will learn the benefits of comparing very different specimens.
• Discussion: Participants will discuss application of the activities in teacher education. Discussion will also focus on how each activity allowed teachers to experience scientific practices as outlined by the NGSS.

Materials: Preserved animal specimens (preserved bats, birds, turtles etc.), provided by the presenter

Cost: There is no cost for this workshop

Target Audience: ASTE members who work with Prek-5th grade teachers. This includes those who work in teacher preparation programs and provide professional development for in-service teachers. This workshop work also benefits attendees who themselves are teachers of young children, as it would help them develop their own scientific practices – as well learn activities that can easily be implemented in the classroom.