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UGA faculty give teachers science lesson

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UGA faculty give teachers science lesson

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February 2, 2014

One of the thrills of grade school is the chance to take a class field trip.

On one day recently, though, it was the teachers' turn to take the field trip-this time without the students.

Thirteen middle and high school science teachers from the Clarke County School District, along with five UGA College of Education master's students, visited the Athens campus to meet with UGA scientists and see how they do their research.

The professional learning day was an opportunity for science teachers to connect with practitioners of the subjects they teach to their students.

Charles Kutal, a chemistry professor and associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, said the program allowed the teachers to see "what science really is and how people do it."

About a dozen of UGA's world-class scientists invited teachers to their labs and classrooms to talk about such varying scientific subjects as extreme weather events, how chemistry can provide answers for questions in art and archeology, and how to use a mobile phone app to promote clean rivers and oceans.

Paul Schroeder and John Shields, co-directors of the Center for Advanced Ultrastructural Research, led some of the visiting science teachers on a tour of the facility, where they offered demonstrations on electron microscopes.

Shields and Schroeder explained how the high-powered microscopes are used in practical ways for disciplines such as geology, food science and entomology.

Nancy Wine, an eighth-grade science teacher at Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School, said the visit to UGA was a rare treat.

"It's been amazing," she said.

Though she teaches science to students every day, the visit was the first time since her own collegiate days that she was able to interact with practicing scientists.

The trip to campus, she said, would help her draw connections between what she teaches and how it is practiced.

Wine also was enthusiastic about networking with science faculty, who offered their help in the classroom.

Schroeder and Shields, in addition to their tour, also put out an invitation to help the teachers in the future, whether in the form of having students visit the center or for the researchers to visit the schools.

"We want to let you know we're available," Schroeder told the science teachers.

This kind of invitation from science faculty to assist the teachers was a major theme of the program.

Kutal said when he approached faculty about participating in the program, everyone he asked immediately jumped at the chance to help.

"The faculty really understand the importance of sharing what they do, not only with the general public, but with science teachers who will share it with their students," Kutal said.

The professional learning day was part of the Teach to Learn partnership between the College of Education and the Clarke County School District. It was organized by Kutal as well as Julie Luft, the Athletic Association Professor of Science and Mathematics Education in the education college, and Amy Peacock, a science coach with the Clarke County School District.

The Teach to Learn partnership is funded by a two-year grant from the Georgia Governor's Office for Student Achievement's Race to the Top Innovation Fund.

The program, which is spearheaded by the College of Education, is aimed at strengthening UGA's support for Clarke County School District's math and science teachers.