About the Teacher Institute
Each year, more than five hundred teachers attend Teacher Institute (TI) programs designed to help them strengthen their content knowledge, improve their ability to successfully facilitate student investigations and inquiry, and develop their skills as mentors, coaches, and leaders. TI support focuses on all the scientific disciplines, including physics, life sciences, earth science, astronomy, chemistry, and the environmental sciences.
Established in 1984, TI provides Bay Area middle and high school science teachers with a professional development program designed to support their needs at various stages in their career. TI’s Teacher Induction Program supports beginning science teachers during the critical first two years in the profession. TI’s Teacher Mid-Career Program works with science teachers after they emerge from induction and are ready to develop their skills as facilitators of inquiry-rich, authentic student learning experiences. TI’s Teacher Leadership Program trains the most experienced science teachers to serve as mentors and coaches for the novice teachers in the Teacher Induction Program. These three intentionally overlapping programs make up a science teacher “guild” that provides members with support through ongoing weekend workshops, advanced summer institutes, and Internet resources and online support.
Over the years, TI has developed more than three hundred classroom activities that let both teachers and students build and explore tabletop versions of Exploratorium exhibits. These activities are designed to demonstrate unusual or unexpected phenomena, spark student curiosity, generate questions, and serve as the starting points for deeper classroom science investigations.
TI also disseminates its knowledge and expertise by supporting the needs of individual schools and urban school districts throughout the country. For example, TI staff have designed and implemented teacher professional development programs for the San Francisco Unified School District, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Alameda County, San Mateo County, and the New Orleans Recovery District. TI staff have also supported international efforts to improve science education by providing science teachers with professional development in Costa Rica, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, East Timor, Singapore, South Korea, and India.
An exciting collaboration is with the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). NOCCA, an arts training center for talented students in New Orleans, recently established the Academic Studio, a comprehensive high school designed to provide NOCCA students with an integrated education in art and academics. TI advised NOCCA on the initial design of their innovative high school science curriculum and has helped NOCCA faculty engage art students in meaningful science learning experiences that integrate all of the arts. This project gives the Exploratorium an opportunity to test its beliefs regarding the effectiveness of learning about the world through art and science integration.
An important new undertaking will be to design new professional development programs to support science teachers as they implement the Next Generation Science Standards. The Standards describe science and engineering content, practices, and cross-disciplinary themes that all students should learn. In providing professional development focused on the Standards, TI will help teachers across the career spectrum strengthen their knowledge of science content, their understanding of cross-disciplinary ideas (such as cause and effect, scale, mass and energy), their ability to engage their students in authentic science investigations, and their capacity to provide access and equity for all students. In addition, TI will develop new classroom activities that directly involve students in all the dimensions of science and engineering practices.