10,000 Teachers and Many More Students Search for Truths

At yourwildlife.org we have spent the last three years doing science with the public. We have, in the process, discovered more fun things than we ever would have on our own. We have seen further into the truths of belly buttons, armpits, face mites, backyard ants, and even domestic cats than we ever imagined we might. It has been fun, big fun, ridiculous fun, the kind of fun one should not really get to have while doing a job.

Now we are ready to take a big next step. We would like to bring this fun into schools. More specifically, we have embarked on a five-year project to try to improve student outcomes and teacher enthusiasm around the world by creating opportunities for real scientific discovery. We would like to engage, 10,000 teachers, yes 10,000 teachers, and their students in North Carolina and any other state or country that will have us.

We are ready, in other words, to bring our wild brand of science to the kids. The trouble is, we don’t have that much experience working with formal education. We are scientists, writers and designers; we are not teachers. We don’t know the daily difficulties of actually doing science in a classroom while also meeting teaching standards (the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards) and dealing with ordinary daily difficulties of managing rooms full of wonderful, human children. We could have tried to just figure it out on our own, but we knew better. The first thing we did was to hire a former teacher, Lea Shell. Lea has begun to work on a variety of projects in classrooms. Then we teamed up with local teachers. Then, well, we leaned forward and let out the academic equivalent of a barbaric clown yelp.

We gathered up the greatest folks that we could find to form a super team of scientists, museum staff, educators, social scientists and more and with this team we are now almost ready. Here is our plan:

Kenan FellowFirst, we will continue to do our ordinary science with the public and any teacher that wants to engage that work in ANY way. We welcome that engagement. Follow our blog, sign up for our email list, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And teachers, we especially hope you’ll sign-up for our education-focused email list to get updates and learn about new opportunities.

Second, we have partnered with school districts in North Carolina.

Third, we partnered with the Kenan Fellows Program, a program expert in bringing teachers into research labs and with those teachers developing classroom modules.

Canopy MegFourth, we partnered with Canopy Meg Lowman and  the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences where scientists will work with the Kenan Fellows (And museum education staff led by Liz Baird) to develop new science around those modules.

Fifth, we involved the Science House at North Carolina State University who will work on the ground to get modules into schools and help with them.

Sixth, we recruited Jose Picart and the Wake County Public School System to develop summer courses made almost entirely of stackable modules of real science.

Seventh, we have enlisted Eleanor Hasse and her team of evaluators to track whether the students and teachers we engage actually improve in terms of standard outcomes (the evidence suggests they will, but we will test the hypothesis at every step).

Eighth, Jeni (the great) Corn and the Friday Institute will assess which of our projects are working and in what context and how we might get them to work even better. We want projects to go viral, to spread learning and real science around the world.

Ninth, we will, of course, come up with new ideas for projects with the help of everyone, projects that allow us to help students discover many truths no one else knows about the world.

Tenth, well, maybe there were only nine steps.

And so if you are a teacher, get ready. Success to us will be working with as many of you as we can. Success to us will be students around the world standing up proudly as they announce that they were the first in the world to know something no one else in the history of the world has ever known. That is what we aspire to. We are going big. We have come in to your home. We sampled your belly buttons. Now, we are headed into schools.

– Rob Dunn