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SC2 holds summer program for teachers

Scientifically Connected Communities (SC2) held the first session of its two session summer institute from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 9-13 on the New Mexico State University campus.

Stephen Kanim, a physics professor at New Mexico State University, leads a science course during the Scientifically Connected Communities summer institute June 9-13. (NMSU photo by Beth Sitzler)

SC2 summer institute is designed for science, math or special education teachers in grades fourth through eighth to increase their science content knowledge and inquiry-based teaching. The teachers participated in different sessions that focused on various fields of science.

"Scientists from all over NMSU conducted sessions that achieved our goals," said Terri Hansen, a SC2 field specialist. "We also have a bilingual expert to work with the teachers about effective classroom strategies for bilingual students."

Another reason the institute is held is to increase the state's low science and math scores.

"The New Mexico Education Department has funded us to help increase our students' scientific literacy," Hansen said.

While SC2 holds workshops throughout the year, Hansen said this is the third summer the SC2 summer institute has been held. Each year, a different theme is chosen for the sessions. This year the theme is CSI and the sessions include human development, forensic science and blood and DNA.

"I like that it has a core and braches out because it allows you to build upon prior knowledge," said Sandy Hill-Heredia, an eighth-grade special education teacher from Vista Middle School. "Eighth graders usually don't generalize, they think science is exclusive, language art is exclusive and math is exclusive. Here, they make these generalizations, so we can make them with our students."

This is Heredia's third year participating in the institute.

"I started attending the institute because science was the class I was most afraid to teach because I felt like I didn't have enough background in it," Heredia said. "I've learned a lot from the institute and I'm not afraid of science anymore. In fact, I'm thinking about getting a master's in science."

Julie Maestas, an eighth-grade science teacher from Picacho Middle School, and Sam Sanchez, a sixth-grade science teacher from Lynn Middle School agree that the institute offers teachers classroom resources, networking opportunities and builds confidence.

"For me it has been a confidence builder since this is my second year teaching," Sanchez said. "It also has given me networking opportunities, for example I can e-mail the other teachers or Terri if I have a question."

"All of us science teachers benefit in different ways," Maestas said, who has participated in the institute all three years it has been offered. "We don't just learn from the presentations, we learn from each other."

SC2 also provides resources and support for teachers including microscope cleaning and repairs and ordering chemicals.

"The staff of SC2 also goes into the classroom to help teachers facilitate labs," Hansen said. "We have also located judges and judged as well the middle school science fairs, helped facilitate grade-level science odyssey events, helped teachers obtain outside grants for their classrooms."

Hansen said the institute has been so successful they opened it up to fourth-grade teachers.

"When we opened it up, we had so many teachers we had to add a two day workshop to accompany the five-day sessions," Hansen said.

Hansen said during the June 9-13 five-day session 60 fourth through eighth grade teachers participated and an additional 20 fourth and fifth grade teachers participated in the two-day workshop June 9-10.

During the second five-day session to be held July 14-18, 64 teachers will participate and 25 teachers will participate during the two-day workshop held July 14-15.

For more information call (575) 646-1397 or (575) 646-2350.