By Janet Krenn, Staff Writer
In the middle of a classroom project, one student stops to check her phone—and that’s a good thing.
Normally, Chanel Graves is a science teacher at Cradock Middle School in Portsmouth, Virginia. On January 19, one of her days off, she was a student, testing out an experiment to build an aquifer and observe how pollution affects groundwater.
“I can’t wait to do this with my students,” says Graves. She was so impressed by the project that she grabbed her phone to check her schedule, so she could see when she could introduce the lesson to her students.
“They love to model—anything hands-on,” Graves says. She adds, that despite being close to the water, students don’t seem to grasp their connection to it. “This will relate to them. I’m really excited!”
Graves was one of more than 50 area teachers who spent a day at Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to try out lesson plans developed by VIMS graduate students. The seven activities they explored were just a sampling of the full set they went home with: 70 activities, all based on real science, stored on a handy USB drive.
“To me, this is a brain trust of VIMS graduate students, bending their minds around how to make their science into interactive, exciting, and hand-on classroom activities,” says Carol Hopper Brill, VIMS education staff affiliated with Virginia Sea Grant.
Hopper Brill was one of the education staff who managed the VIMS GK12 PERFECT Program, a five-year project supported by the National Science Foundation from 2009 to 2014. (PERFECT stands for Partnership between Educators and Researchers For Enhancing Classroom Teaching.)
GK12 Fellows get assigned to teachers at local schools and then take on an active teaching role, bringing their own research and current science into elementary and high school classrooms. The PERFECT Program was the only GK12 project in the Chesapeake region focusing on marine science.
At the end of each year, the GK12 fellows and their teacher-partners took part in a lesson plan symposium to share some of their best work.
“Every year the teachers would say that we should share these out beyond our group of teacher partners,” says Hopper Brill. It was this recommendation that spurred the January workshop.
Over the five-year program, 47 fellowships were awarded, with each fellow committing to at least 10 hours a week in the classroom. But Hopper Brill says that those hours don’t come close to estimating the amount of time that the fellows put into the lesson plan collection.
“This is a lot more work than what we could even calculate,” says Hopper Brill, explaining that GK12 Fellows created and tested each lesson plan with several classes. “The fellows contributed the best of their many pieces of work.”