K-12 science teachers from across Florida, including Hillsborough County, spent four days this summer immersed in a virtual research lab experience as part of a professional development workshop hosted by the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute’s Scientist in Every Florida School (SEFS) program titled ‘The Hydrosphere.’
Fifty-nine teachers representing 22 counties selected from a pool of 274 applicants assisted scientists with ongoing research projects. The teachers worked with scientists to develop lesson plans that help students better understand issues about Earth’s hydrosphere, which includes all of the water on our planet. Selected teachers will receive a $500 stipend for their participation.
Brian Abramowitz, K-12 education and outreach coordinator for SEFS, said interest in the annual SEFS summer professional development workshop has grown tremendously since last year, even with a shortened summer break.
“Last year, we received 99 applications, and that number has more than doubled this year,” Abramowitz said. “We believe this is through word of mouth and more teachers learning about this free and innovative program.”
For the second summer in a row, the workshop took place entirely on Zoom. Fourteen laboratories from the University of Florida, Florida State University, the St. Johns River and South Florida Water Management Districts, EarthEcho International, the Everglades Foundation and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center agreed to host a small group of teachers for the week.
The scientists’ research interests range from wastewater treatment to tracking tides. Participating scientists have agreed to make at least one virtual visit to the teachers’ classrooms in the upcoming school year.
This is the third time SEFS has hosted a workshop of this kind. Last year, 40 teachers attended virtually for similar experiences focused on what educators call the “nature of science,” or the tools, theories and skills scientists use to carry out research. The team hopes that next summer’s workshop will be in person again.
The mission of the University of Florida Thompson Earth Systems Institute’s Scientist in Every Florida School program is to engage Florida’s K-12 students and teachers in cutting-edge research by providing science role models and experiences that inspire the future stewards of our planet. In its second year, the SEFS program has coordinated more than 1,700 scientist visits to classrooms representing more than 400 schools, marking 55,000 impressions on Florida’s K-12 students. So far, more than 850 teachers and nearly 600 scientists have participated in the program.
More information is available at www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/earth-systems/scientist-in-every-florida-school.