Nephi Thompson
Rifle, CO Colorado

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April 3, 2013
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Teachers can share the fun, wonder, value of science

What if, by learning a new way of seeing, you could be better equipped to solve problems? Or organize what you observe so that you can make more sense of our complex world?

These are some of the many benefits of learning about science. And here at Colorado Mountain College, we are delighted to be working with some excellent elementary and middle school teachers who want to re-energize this summer, to learn new ways to bring the wonder and excitement of science to their students.

We recently received a $150,000 grant from Chevron to develop and provide a summer science experience for K-8 teachers from the schools of New Castle, Silt, Rifle, Parachute and DeBeque. Not only is this training free to 24 teachers and their schools, but participating teachers earn a $500 stipend, classroom equipment valued at $250 or more, and three hours of college credit, along with academic year support. The grant provides funding for three years of workshops, allowing us to reach many teachers in our region and sustain their growth.

This hands-on, inquiry-based workshop will provide a deeper exploration of what teachers will be doing with their students in their classrooms next year. Participants will reflect on what science instruction can look like in their own classrooms and expand their pedagogical content knowledge, which is understanding how to teach a subject in a way that will be best for the learner.

Teaching in this way helps students to connect to their pre-existing knowledge and scientific experiences. Science is everywhere; in weather, cooking, taking medicine when we're sick, machines, technology, and, of course, in nature. Through natural play and day-to-day activities, students experience and explore physical, chemical and biological systems without realizing the complexity of what they see. Learning about science gives them a framework for understanding their world.

The long-term benefits of understanding science are significant. We all know that good jobs are available for people who can apply skills and information obtained through studying math and science.

In addition to those obvious benefits, people who understand science are better informed citizens. We can make better decisions if we understand how scientific knowledge is created and how that knowledge is applied.

One short-term benefit, one that we are expected to measure for this grant, is to improve local students' performance on exams that test scientific knowledge. Research has shown that the most significant gains in students scientific knowledge come from improving their teacher's ability to teach science. This workshop and partnering with our fellow teachers in the schools is one way we can help serve the needs of our community.

I am looking forward to teaching this workshop for all these reasons, but especially because science is fun. Through the workshops, I hope the teachers will see that, too - that a dynamic interaction where everyone's engaged and learning can be fun for both the teachers and the students.

Nephi Thompson teaches science at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle. For more information about the workshops, contact him at or Dr. Barbara Johnson at or 625-6945.

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The Post Independent Updated Apr 3, 2013 06:14PM Published Apr 3, 2013 06:12PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.