Teachers Become Students at Baylor College of Medicine

More than 250 participate in hands-on activities at the Elementary Summer Science Institute

July 27, 2011

Carmen Vasquez has always loved science, but thanks to a ten-day training program at the Baylor College of Medicine, the Love Elementary teacher is bursting at the seams to take what she has learned back to her classroom.

“This has been one of the best experiences ever,” she said. “With the new things I have come up with it, and the new things I have learned, I think the kids are going to be so excited about science this coming school year.”

Vasquez is one of 250 HISD elementary school teachers from more than 100 different schools who recently attended the annual Elementary Summer Science Institute presented by Baylor College of Medicine. Participation in the program this summer was nearly double last year’s, as HISD made a request to expand the institute after seeing promising academic growth among students whose teachers had previously attended.

The intense training session featured presentations by real scientists and hands-on activities like building rockets out of empty two-liter plastic soda bottles as a way to study motion, force, and gravity. “They found out science is fun and they can do it with their students in their classrooms, they can do it cheaply, and they can integrate it with other subjects like literature and math,” says Barbara Tharp, assistant professor with the Center for Educational Outreach at Baylor College of Medicine.

The institute culminated with a science festival at Herod Elementary School, where participants showcased a mock lesson for their colleagues and principals. Some of the lessons got a little messy, as teachers used dry ice, color-dyed water, and even slime to demonstrate basic science concepts.

“This is just fantastic,” said Garcia Elementary Principal Aaron Dominguez. “I sent several teachers to the institute, including a new teacher, and they were all emphatic that I come and see what they have been doing for the past ten days. I feel like my teachers are more prepared and have something tangible to take back to their classrooms.”

First-year teacher Adalia Espinoza agrees and says the program gave her many lesson plans that she can incorporate when the new school year starts. “They also gave us lots of ways to expand on the lessons and ways to differentiate for different kinds of learners,” she said. “I am already walking into my classroom knowing how I am going to reach different kinds of students.”

In addition to hands-on tools and lesson plans, teachers who participated in the institute will also have access to a new Baylor website, SuperSTAAR, which will provide model science lesson activities, demonstration videos, and downloadable student pages that are all aligned with the new Texas curriculum standards for science.