GK-12: Middle School Student Investigators in Environmental Science
New Mexico State University
Graduate fellows in geology, physics, chemistry, and biology are paired with teachers in eleven middle schools spread over three school districts in southern New Mexico. Fellow-teacher pairs develop and teach two inquiry-based, interdisciplinary lessons each semester. Program evaluation data from the end of year two reveals the following about the fellows: (1) 89% feel that their teaching skills have improved; (2) 89% feel that their overall communication skills have improved; (3) 78% feel that their knowledge of teaching and learning has increased; (4) 100% feel that their knowledge of interdisciplinary science has increased; (5) 67% feel that they are interested in having a life-long commitment to serve as a resource for the schools. In a focus group, teachers provided the following examples of changes in fellows: (1) not taking anything for granted, better at explaining; (2) learned to use correct level of vocabulary; (3) felt more connected to community. It is interesting that interaction with middle school teachers and students has increased not only communication-related skills, but also dramatically changed the fellows’ knowledge of how the scientific disciplines are inter-related. We expect that these changes will impact not only their education careers, but also the path of their scientific endeavors.