Elementary School Science Institute

Elementary School Teacher Professional Development

The support system includes a four-week summer institute and follow-up academic year support. Teachers participate for one summer and academic year. The summer institute entails

  • Week 1: learning how to conduct inquiry-based science teaching in a problem-based learning setting.
  • Weeks 2 and 3: teaching inquiry-based science collaboratively to high-needs students in a summer science camp.
  • Week 4: reflecting on summer teaching experience and planning to implement inquiry-based teaching during the academic year.

An overarching theme of continuous improvement will permeate the institute (Akerson, Cullen, & Hanson, (2009). With the oversight of the STEM Leadership Team, science topics will be selected based on the lowest-scoring areas of science on state tests for students and a needs assessment of teachers. Teams of university science educators, scientists, and engineers, along with science classroom teachers and mathematics specialists, will co-plan and co-facilitate the summer learning experiences.

Principals and school district science coordinators will attend part of the training to become acculturated with the science teaching and inquiry process. During the academic year, the teachers will implement inquiry-based science in their classrooms and meet to share and analyze samples of student work. They will attend the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) annual conference to learn about science teaching, learning, and resources on a statewide basis and meet with VISTA teachers for further professional development.

This program supports college access and success. Parents of campers are invited to attend the last day of camp at a university campus, where they spend the morning with college counselors learning about student preparedness, the college admissions process, and financial aid. After lunch, children will present solutions to the science problems they have been investigating and celebrate their success with their parents. This positive introduction to college starts the process of preparing children for college and meaningful careers.

Elementary Science Institute Timeline, 2013-2014

Elementary institute Summer Academic year

Grade 4-6 teachers of science

Attend 4 week institute

(June 23th, 2013-July 26th, 2013)

Attend 3 follow-up sessions

Attend VAST conference, November 2013

Classroom Coach Support


Attend 1 day during institute


Science Coordinators

Attend 1-2 days during institute

Attend VSELA conference

Academic year follow-up sessions include attending the fall VAST Conference.