Elementary Science Education Partners (ESEP)

March 24, 2015

At Emory University in Georgia, what began as one professor s idea to improve science education for local youth has turned into a massive partnership to re-envision science education for an entire school district.

A few years ago Dr. Bob DeHaan, a professor of biology at Emory University and a resident of Atlanta, decided it was time something was done about science education in elementary schools. Recent research showed that the way science was taught to elementary school students was simply incompatible with the nature of the discipline. Classes looked more like science history teaching students about science and the key words and ideas than like science education teaching students how to do science and engage in scientific inquiry about the world around them.

Dr. DeHaan approached the principal at his grandson s elementary school and asked whether seventy math and science majors would be of use to teachers. When the answer was yes, he found a host of Emory students who were interested in participating. The students, all science and math majors, received nine hours of training in which they learned not just how to help teachers, but how to help change the way teachers teach. These students would serve as science partners in Atlanta public schools, assisting teachers in inquiry-based science instruction. Together, they founded Elementary Science Education Partners (ESEP).

At many colleges and universities, students are matched with public schools to provide services to children. While such a match may be a service partnership, it is not an educational partnership. In an educational partnership, campuses work with the community to effect change in the way education itself works. What made ESEP a true partnership was the idea of participatory reform, which guided ESEP s work. By this method, teachers and administrators work with college students to take an active role in the reform process.

ESEP was an immediate hit, and Dr. DeHaan soon discovered that this partnership was only the beginning. Science teachers began requesting that their principals provide them with additional science instruction. Out of this request, grew a teacher training program: Science, Knowledge, Inquiry, Leadership (SKIL), a program in which teachers who have worked with ESEP provide professional development to their colleagues in the Atlanta public school system. Every year, 38 SKIL teachers provide this science training.

The partnership continues to grow. With demand for undergraduate science partners outpacing the supply at Emory, six other campuses in Atlanta have joined ESEP: Clark Atlanta University, Georgia Sate University, Morehouse College, the Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College. Students, faculty, and staff work in mentoring and partnering relationships with elementary teachers, principals, and the Atlanta Board of Education. The Atlanta public school system now provides every elementary school science teacher in Atlanta with science kits that are designed by the partnership members to assist in course instruction.

What began as a small-scale effort to change science education at the school where Dr. DeHaan s grandson was a student, has grown into a partnership that includes all seventy Atlanta public elementary schools. By the year 2000, ESEP will have worked with all 1,700 science teachers in the Atlanta school system.

From
Service Matters 1998: Engaging Higher Education In the Renewal of America s Communities and American Democracy

For more information: http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/ESEP/

Emory University - GA, Georgia
President: LEO LAMBERT
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