PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Dr. Jane Close Conoley
CO-PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Dr. Vishna Herrity
Although the National Science Education Standards state that “Inquiry into authentic questions generated from student experiences is the central strategy for teaching science,” it remains among the most challenging practices for teachers to implement. Now, teachers in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties are learning how to bring inquiry into the classroom by experiencing it for themselves through the Gevirtz Research Center’s field-based Teacher Enrichment Adventure in Watershed Education and Training (TEAWET).
TEAWET is funded through a three-year California B-WET grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The TEAWET program is designed to provide professional development in order to increase the ability of classroom teachers to engage students in meaningful watershed education - both in the classroom and in the field. Recent TEAWET collaborators include the South Coast Science Project, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, UC Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute Education Program, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History/Ty Warner Sea Center, Channel Islands Naturalists Corps, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, and Goleta Valley Beautiful. The Gevirtz Research Center is the lead agency.
Goals and Objectives
The overall goals of TEAWET are to:
Specific objectives for TEAWET are that:
Participating teachers are known as “TEAWET Fellows”. As such, they are viewed as partners in the sharing and dissemination of watershed knowledge and curriculum. TEAWET Fellows obtain the signed consent of their school principals when applying to the program. Principals also agree to offer participating teachers opportunities to share their knowledge of watershed education with other colleagues in their schools.
The Fellows are teachers of grades three through twelve in science and other disciplines who have been recruited from throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. TEAWET Mentor Teacher Fellows, introduced in 2007-2008, are returning Fellows who have developed a level of watershed education expertise that enables them to mentor new TEAWET Fellows, contribute to the planning of the TEAWET curriculum, assist in making conference presentations, and present educational material to other Fellows.
Eight full days of professional development are provided throughout the project year and following summer. Participating teachers receive stipends for attendance and for classroom materials. Participants also have an opportunity to receive eight quarter-units of professional growth credit through UCSB Extension classes presented by Dr. Herrity.
Professional development adventures have taken teachers on explorations of Lake Casitas, Mission Creek at the Botanic Garden, Arroyo Hondo Preserve, Goleta Beach, Matilija Dam in Ventura County, the Watershed Resource Center at Arroyo Burro Beach, the Ty Warner Sea Center, and Santa Cruz Island.
TEAWET presentations have been given by Dr. Herrity at the California Islands Symposium in February 2008 and the National Marine Sanctuaries NOAA California Bay Watershed Education and Training Conference in May 2008.
The TEAWET evaluation utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methodology. The evaluation examines the changes in participants’ knowledge and skills relating to watershed education, attitudes about engaging in inquiry-based watershed education, practices that can be applied in the participating teachers’ classrooms and the overall satisfaction with the professional development experience. Data collection includes on-line pre- and post-surveys, focus group interviews with participants, and observations of training sessions.
Focus group interview participants are asked to describe their experiences in TEAWET, how their knowledge of inquiry and watershed education has increased, and strategies they have used to incorporate watershed education into the classroom. They are also asked to make suggestions to improve the structure and content of upcoming TEAWET training sessions.
Observation field-notes from each training session are recorded by a graduate student researcher and the TEAWET Program Coordinator. These notes include information about the implementation of the program and capture the questions and experiences of the participants.
Findings show that TEAWET professional development has helped teachers develop a greater depth of understanding on watershed education topics. This increased understanding made them more comfortable and confident in integrating watershed education into an existing curriculum and finding connections to state content standards in science and other subject areas. Teachers indicated that they benefited from the numerous resources and contacts within the field of environmental education that were presented to teachers at each training session. The requirement for each teacher to prepare and present a watershed lesson plan ensured that the teachers incorporated at least one watershed education activity into their classroom. Teachers benefited from the multiple examples of lessons relating to watershed education, inquiry and environmental education across grades and disciplines.
Engaging in inquiry with students can be a challenging task. Through TEAWET, however, teachers learned more about the process of inquiry and the importance of letting students discover information through questioning and experimentation in watershed education.
TEAWET Program Partners: