Guest blog post by Staceylyn Machi, professional development specialist in the Understanding Science for Teaching Project at WestEd.
Whether you’re in a sandbox, a school, or an office, everyone needs good pals in life. During the 2014 Next Steps Institute, WestEd will lead the Creating Cross Sector Partnerships to Advance STEM Education pathway. We know from experience how important partnerships are when working to make an impact through STEM education. When developing the Making Sense of SCIENCE (MSS), a project from WestEd’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, we found a pal in the Discovery Place Education Studios.
Who are we?
The MSS project produces best-in-class teacher professional development courses in science. We also provide facilitation academies to prepare facilitators to lead the courses for teachers. We are a small team and don’t have the capacity to provide our courses directly to teachers. Discovery Place Education Studios provides professional development to thousands of teachers, and they want to provide the best science professional development out there.
How did we become pals?
Obviously, MSS and DPES are great compliments to each other, but becoming pals didn’t happen overnight.
We met each other by chance, and over the years Discovery Place staff attended several MSS facilitation academies. We quickly realized that Discovery Place was well-organized with a staff of knowledgeable and passionate science educators. They valued our expertise in curriculum design for teachers and the techniques we use for facilitating collaborative teacher learning.
From this foundation of mutual respect, we built a partnership. Both organizations were clear about what they needed and what they could and could not offer. We called on our organizations’ contract and legal departments to help sort out the logistics. Thanks to conference call technology, we had plenty of remote play-dates.
What have we done thus far?
In June, MSS instructors led a facilitation academy for the Making Sense of SCIENCE: Energy teacher course at the Discovery Place. The successful academy reached many formal and informal educators. The participants were engaged and challenged by the course and impressed with Discovery Place’s state of the art facility and fantastic staff.
At the end of the week, compliments abounded. One participant shared, “Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us to help teachers and impact student learning.” Hearing them was like stepping back and watching the flag soar on top of the sandcastle.
What will happen next?
The key to maintaining our successful partnership is finding ways both organizations benefit. Soon, Discovery Place will lead the MSS: Energy and the MSS: Force & Motion courses for teachers at their fantastic Education Studios. This July, their staff will get first dibs on learning our brand new course, MSS: Genes & Traits.
We are excited to see how this partnership grows, and are looking forward to meeting new pals at the Next Steps Institute to play in the STEM sandbox!
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