Since 2007 ECHO has been investing in our local elementary schools to ensure that teachers and students will find relevance in their science curriculum by experiencing science through the lens of the Lake Champlain Basin. ECHO’s Inquiry Science in the Schools program, has built strong collaborations with Saint Michael’s College, Champlain College and UVM’s Education Departments allowing over sixty pre-service teachers an opportunity to test their wings teaching science inquiry lessons in real elementary classrooms.Nearly seventy teachers from around Vermont have taken part in the ECHO Science Professional Development Workshop Series where content immersion in everything from Geology to Reproduction has been made available to teachers – all modeled through inquiry process skills.In the last two years, under a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), ECHO has gone deeper still with exceptional results. I am very proud of this project and all it has accomplished.
The ISS project has fulfilled its intention of elevating the relevance of science. Sadly, the IMLS grant funding ends this December, 2011 and the ISS project will conclude as well. The legacy of the project includes lasting science content – lesson plans, science equipment, refined teaching methods – transferable to all visiting school field trips down the road. Saint Michael’s College now requires a science practicum of all pre-service teachers modeled after the ISS program. UVM and Champlain College are both working to engage community partners in more established service-learning science experiences. In Burlington, Milton and Winooski School Districts, strong relationships have been established between ECHO and the Curriculum Coordinators as they work to embed science learning into the demands of math and literacy. Teachers have told me countless times that they feel more comfortable teaching science and using ECHO as a respected science resource. But it is the elementary students who have benefited most. Many of them, who in some cases are now in fifth grade and have been coming to ECHO since Kindergarten, have clear ownership to ECHO – they know ECHO as an exciting destination, they know its mission, and they have an emerging science identity because of their experiences.
Now that the grant is concluding, it is with sadness, too, that I announce my departure from ECHO. As education priorities shift, I find myself desiring to go deeper with science education through my connections to the schools, pre-service teacher training, service-learning and teacher professional development. I will start this mission as a new adjunct faculty at Champlain College teaching a science methods course in January. Beyond this, I hope to stay engaged with the local school districts as the Vermont Common Core State Standards emerge. ECHO’s Education Team will remain in great hands with Molly Loomis, Director of Education, at the helm. Molly has been a wonderful support to ISS and fully understands the value of maintaining our now established relationships.
As I depart, I wish to acknowledge the years of support provided by Judy Allard, retired Burlington High School Biology teacher who has given hundreds of hours of volunteer time to ECHO to make ISS a reality. Judy, I will miss our kitchen science experiments, lesson plan debates, wacky ideas for how to capture student interest in science (the cow, the timeliness, the stream table we built in the garage…) and the countless hours spent purchasing, sorting, organizing and maintaining all that science equipment! Judy, you are a master teacher and someone with whom I have been privileged to share this journey. And of course, I also owe great debt to Elizabeth Nuckols, ECHO’s Education Specialist who has continually added her creativity, energy, humor and vast science expertise to ISS. You will continue to carry the torch as ECHO moves forward supporting schools and all the dedicated teachers who want to make science come alive. Thank you for your honesty, steady nature, and willingness to pick up where I leave off. ECHO is lucky to have you.
Should anyone wish to contact me beyond December 16th, I can be reached at email@example.com. Thanks to all the staff, interns and volunteers for making this chapter in my book so worthwhile.
Best of luck to all of you!
Top photo: Tracy Truzansky in canoe
Second photo: The final pre-service teachers of ISS, all from Saint Michael's College
Third photo: Tracy on a teaching field trip, presenting geology to 5th graders at Edmunds Elementary School here in Burlington. Courtesy Donna Iverson.
Fourth photo: April, one of ECHO's hugest supporters and one of Tracy's daughters.