Colorado Mountain College receives renewed science institute grant |

Colorado Mountain College receives renewed science institute grant

Kristin Carlson
Colorado Mountain College
From left, Corrie Harris, a Chevron engineer, and Scott Sandblom, an 8th-grade science teacher at Riverside Middle School, at last summer’s science institute for K-8 teachers at Colorado Mountain College. Chevron has renewed a $99,000 grant to expand the program this summer.
David Clifford/Contributed Photo |

The next generation of scientists is sitting in K-8 classrooms right now. A renewed grant from Chevron will help support their enthusiasm for the subject into high school and beyond.

The Chevron Summer Science Institute is designed to help integrate interactive, scientific learning experiences into K-8 classrooms.

This summer, 24 area teachers attended the training at Colorado Mountain College in Rifle, where they built sundials, conducted water testing and explored planetary movement – activities they’re now sharing with their students.

The college applied for and received a second year of funding from corporate sponsor Chevron. The $99,118 grant will help the college train a new group of science teachers in Garfield School District Re-2, Garfield County School District 16 and DeBeque School District 49-JT to create hands-on science immersion experiences for their students.

“We can have a greater impact on students’ science learning with sustained effort,” said Nephi Thompson, associate professor of science. “Also, a two-year cycle allows me to modify the program based on the feedback I receive this year to make next year an even better experience for the teachers and their students.”

Next year’s goal is to train 48 teachers, double the number reached this summer. Dr. Barbara Johnson, director of teacher education at CMC, noted that there is already a waiting list of interested candidates.

Thompson said teachers who are confident in their own scientific content knowledge do a better job of keeping students interested in the subject.

Teachers trained last year are now leading their students in year-long science projects, ranging from studying soil formation in a composter to observing worms, butterflies and tadpoles in natural and man-made habitats. Four teachers at Bea Underwood Elementary School in Battlement Mesa – Shelly Schuckers, Sarah Billings, Lindsey Rose and Andrea Davidovich – are working in conjunction with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Rifle fish hatchery to help students understand the life cycle of trout.

In addition to the one-week, intensive summer institute, the grant underwrites the cost of substitute teachers to cover classes while the teachers selected for the institute take advantage of three professional development days during the school year. This allows the selected teachers to work with their colleagues to implement activities, as well as monitor student achievement.

Teachers also earn a $500 stipend, $250 toward classroom equipment and four credit hours of CMC integrated science credit. Last year’s funding helped supply fish tanks and composters and a sun-tracking device to study how the angle of the sun impacts climate, energy and transportation.

“We’re eager to see the end-of-the-year results in student progress,” said Thompson. “I really respect what these teachers do. It’s an honor to support them however we can.”

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