Center For Ocean Sciences Education Excellence COSEE Alaska
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Scientist-Educator Partnerships

Classroom visits

Guiding field trips

Involving teachers in research
Science teachers find the opportunity to participate in research as a very motivating experience to increase their science knowledge and to develop activities that incorporate their new knowledge and personal experience.

You may be eligible to apply to several federal science education programs that recruit, select, and support teachers who apply for research experience in the field or laboratory. The field activities often take place during summer on board ocean research cruises or in land-based field camps, but field and lab opportunities are also scheduled during the school year.

These partnerships require investments of time by both partners but are highly collaborative. The researcher gains an understanding and involvement in translating the scientific concepts related to the research into effective teaching activities in K-12 classrooms.

You can either apply to be a scientist partner to a teacher through existing programs with annual application deadlines or locate an interested school or teacher in the area where you plan to conduct your research an determine the logistics and costs of supporting the teacher’s participation. Teachers benefit most when they have a meaningful role in data collection and follow-up communications and interest by the scientist in their classroom applications.

You can include this type of activity in a research proposal with an accompanying budget that supports all of the travel and logistical costs of the teacher.

Another way to involve teachers and their students in research is through data collection. See the Public Participation in Research section for tips about how to set up citizen science-type projects with student as collectors of data.

Participating in scientist-teacher professional development workshops
Several institutions and organizations in Alaska sponsor professional development workshops for teachers that engage scientists in providing current Alaska-relevant science content and in developing classroom lessons and units.

Scientists are asked not only to provide a presentation on their research but also to make the presentation as interactive (i.e., involving experiential learning and two-way communication) as possible, to spend time informally with the teacher participants, and to provide follow-up support to develop lesson plans or units that are scientifically accurate.

The researcher can gain training and experience with interactive teaching methods and an understanding and involvement in translating the scientific concepts related to the research into effective teaching activities in K-12 classrooms.

Because lesson plans are distributed via portal websites for teaching activities, scientists can also make important contributions to K-12 science education.

  • Examples:
    • Bering Sea Collection of lesson plans and list of multi-media resources developed during the 2010 Bering Sea Ecosystem Workshop sponsored by COSEE Alaska, North Pacific Research Board, and ARCUS
    • 2011 Gulf of Alaska Ecosystem Workshop sponsored by COSEE Alaska, North Pacific Research Board, and Alaska Ocean Observing System (scheduled for July, 2011)
    • Annual Salmon Education Workshop for rural teachers sponsored by the UAF Cooperative Extension, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Sea Grant, and COSEE Alaska

Participating in virtual field trips
Virtual field trips involve live feeds from the field or lab, video productions related to research, or a combination of both which are distance-delivered from a central location into classrooms and other sites with web and video links. Live feeds from ocean field locations near Alaska are currently limited by bandwidth and technical challenges, so a video production with the possible addition of live feeds from labs or research institutions would be the more feasible approach. Live feeds from labs or research institutions can include two-way communications through interactive activities such as question-and-answer periods.

The Alaska SeaLife Center, a partner in COSEE Alaska, develops and provides distance delivery programs to schoolrooms in Alaska and throughout the U.S. and Canada. They combine video segments from field locations with "on the floor" demonstrations of research and interpretive exhibits at the SeaLife Center, and involve both resident and remote scientists in interactions with students in classrooms.

Virtual field trips provide researchers the opportunity to demonstrate scientific methods, to engage interest in specific study sites and organisms that are the focus of the research, and to convey the logistical and human realities of “doing science.” Virtual field trips can be an engaging method for outreach and can be extended in K-12 education by using the virtual field trip as an engaging “hook” for classroom activities that teach specific science concepts.

The best way to approach the use of this method is to find a partner (e.g., Alaska SeaLife Center contact: Laurie Stuart, lauries at; the National Park Service, the NOAA National Research Reserve System) with the capability to produce virtual field trips and to disseminate them to schools or other communication networks. Production, particularly travel to remote field sites, can be costly, so be sure that grant budgets address production costs realistically. Once produced, the virtual field trip can be archived on the web to provide extended outreach and education opportunities.

Another type of virtual field trip is an Internet activity which guides student into visiting places and times that would otherwise not be possible. You can post a webpage of links that guide students through various aspects of your research. You can make this interactive by using Google Earth™, Blogger™, YouTube™ and Google Sketchup to embed images, videos, and text into sites on Google maps. Download a free guide to learn how to do this.