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Lynnelle Larson,
NSF Teaching Partner

NSF GK-12 Project: Western Washington University
Catalysts for Reform
URL: http://gk12.wwu.edu

Partner School: Mount Baker Middle School,
Mount Vernon WA

Degree: B.S., Cellular & Molecular Biology, University of Washington; M.Ed., Secondary Education, Western Washington University

Years Teaching: 4

Graduate Fellow Partner: Jonathan Robinson

Special Accomplishments
—Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Science Education Partnership, member teacher
—Larson LL, et al. (2002) Proliferation of the endoplasmic reticulum occurs normally in cells that lack a functional unfolded protein response. Yeast 19(4):373-92

Spending time outdoors (hiking, biking, snowshoeing)

How will you continue to integrate an aspect of GK-12 and your partnership with graduate students into your teaching, philosophy, etc.?
One aspect of GK-12 I plan to continue to integrate into my teaching is having my students interact with scientists, whether they are graduate students, professors, field researchers, or professionals who use science in their career or for their hobbies. I think it is important for students to see professional scientists as people not that much different from themselves and to be able to begin to envision themselves as scientists some day. The GK-12 experience has been great this year in that my students are interacting with a scientist weekly and learning about the different things scientists might do besides working in a lab setting. I realize that once my fellow leaves at the end of the year, my students next year will not have the same opportunity. One way I hope to continue having my students interact with scientists is by bringing guests in over the course of the year. Another way our 8 th grade team is hoping to expose more students to science within the community is through service learning projects with various agencies in Skagit County.

Another aspect of GK-12 that I plan on continuing to integrate is deliberate activities that reveal students preconceptions in science. Jonathan and I have been working this year on methods to get at student preconceptions on science concepts we teach. This has been helpful in two ways. First, it helps us to tailor our lessons to directly address preconceptions or misconceptions students have in a way that helps shift their understanding. Secondly, by having students discover their own preconceptions through pre-writes, we can have them directly address what they thought before a unit after we have completed it. It is extremely powerful for a student to be able to say “I used to believe this, but know I think this because….” and be able to provide evidence as to why they think something different. We are working to have students re-examine their initial ideas and explain what was correct or incorrect about their original thoughts and how their ideas on the concept have changed.

How has the GK-12 experience changed you, and how has your participation changed the GK-12 project?
The GK-12 experience has helped me to refocus on why I began teaching science to begin with. I wanted to become a science teacher to help excite students about the natural world around them, to conquer stereotypes around science and science careers, to encourage students to continue on in their science education and to promote the scientific literacy of my students. During my first few years in the teaching profession, I felt overwhelmed with trying to “get through the curriculum”, and the day to day chaos that is the reality of being a public school teacher. Being a part of GK-12 this year has rekindled my original spark and has encouraged me, with the help of Jonathan, to look at our scope and sequence and begin to make some major changes to what we teach, when we teach it and why. In the process of restructuring the curriculum, we plan to incorporate more opportunities for students to become engaged and invested in to what they are learning. Being a part of GK-12 has come at a great time in my teaching career because I have some teaching experience under my belt (so to speak), I am familiar with the curriculum, but am ready to make some serious changes for the benefit of my students. GK-12 has also helped me to ask myself “Do my students understand the science concepts and how do I know?” This is something that will defiantly stay with me even after Jonathan has left.

Profile date: March 2007
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