Science educators gathered in Williamsburg in late November for the yearly Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) Professional Development Institute. Over the course of the conference, three groups of School of Education students under the guidance of Meredith Kier, assistant professor of education, had an opportunity to share their expertise and network with science educators from across the state.
The conference, which kicked off with a keynote address from NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan ’83, was designed to showcase "The Faces of Science in Virginia”— the many rich Virginia science resources that can provide opportunities for students to experience science firsthand.
A group of secondary science preservice teachers presented "Action Research and Professional Development for High Needs Science Classrooms.” Having investigated the varied conceptions that high school students hold about science topics, they presented strategies for teachers to identify these misconceptions and debunk them in the classroom. Matthew McConnell M.A.Ed. '17, a secondary science preservice teacher, said, “Our presentation on misconceptions came together well and I think that the importance of identifying and debunking misconceptions early, regardless of the topic, unit, or course, was perfectly relayed to the audience. VAST was a tremendous experience and opportunity to see what is going on in science education.”
Elementary education graduate students presented to a small group that included Eric Rhodes, science coordinator from the Virginia Department of Education. Their presentation, "Science Circus in the Elementary Classroom," demonstrated student-developed activities as a method of teaching science while maximizing the time and materials needed to implement the content matter.
Alumni of William and Mary's Noyce Scholars program, which provides scholarships to students who commit to STEM teaching in a high-need school district, held a panel discussion session reflecting on their first years of teaching. The Noyce alumni led a question and answer discussion regarding the job search, the decision to teach in a high-need school, authentic engagement in the school and community, and strategies for working with diverse learners.
The VAST Professional Development Institute was an opportunity to showcase the wide-ranging impact of William and Mary students in science education. Roxane Grey M.A.Ed. '17 said, “As a student, sometimes we take for granted all that the teacher does in order to prepare us or themselves for activities or lessons but being at VAST put me in their shoes. I really got to experience what teachers do at conferences and how they reflect on implications for their teaching. It was really empowering.”