Teacher as scientist

4427417055_18a59e8b68_mI have a degree in biology and teach high school. Although I love teaching at this level, I miss doing real scientific work myself. Any suggestions on how I can still stay engaged and current in science? —T., Illinois

Although we teach a variety of topics, teachers have areas of special interests. And as we teach unfamiliar topics, we may discover new interests. Social media is a good way to find out more about ways to continue and expand on your interests. Some options you could explore include:

  • Participating in programs from universities or government agencies that help teachers contribute to investigations over the summer and to partner with researchers. Your alma mater or a nearby college/university may have such a program.
  • Attending programs and presentations at universities, museums, medical centers, parks, or science centers to update your knowledge and foster connections with researchers and other science professionals.
  • Volunteering your expertise and expertise at nature centers or museums.
  • Inviting scientists to your classroom to share their experiences and expertise and perhaps work with your students. Some science partnership projects with higher education facilitate these interactions.
  • Reading science journals and publications, many of which are available online. Share with your students.
  • Using summer and term breaks to visit museums, science centers, national parks, and so on. If you let the staff know ahead of time you’re a teacher, you may get the red carpet treatment with an in-depth or behind-the-scenes tour.
  • Contributing to continuing investigations through citizen science projects (see the SciStarter website for projects in which both you and your students can participate) 

As science teachers, we have an obligation to model lifelong learning for our students. And they enjoy finding out about our “secret” lives and interests and passions.

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  1. Harry E. Keller
    Posted November 30, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    It’s great that someone is teaching science who loves doing science and understands what that means. Please keep teaching. The suggestions above are great.

    I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and was a university professor for many years. I chose to take a path that would allow me to do something meaningful to me. Despite enjoying the research, I found creating to be even more rewarding. I now create online science lessons using real experiments with hands-on measurements. I track new developments in every field of science so that I can make the best possible lessons. I feel that I am making a difference, more so than making discoveries in a niche area of chemistry that almost no one cares about.

  2. Karen Peake
    Posted November 30, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    As a science teacher you bring the gift of higher order thinking skills and scientific inquiry to your students – regardless of what career they choose – have you been able to incorporate the Next Generation Science Standards into you teaching? https://www.knowatom.com/typ-ngss-illinois

  3. Paula Young
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Applying your research skills to your teaching is what the NGSS are all about!! Putting your students in the roll of being scientists, teaching them how to conduct research, teaching them to question, look for evidence, and defend their own results are critical to producing our next generation scientists. Another rewarding avenue is involving your students in science fairs, and summer science programs. There are also many summer science research opportunities for teachers. Here are just a few! Check with your local universities.
    http://cty.jhu.edu/imagine/resources/internships/science.html This one contains an exhaustive list!
    For K–8 reviews and activities go to http://www.science-nook.com

    • Mary Bigelow
      Posted December 4, 2016 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing these resources!

  4. Harry E. Keller
    Posted December 2, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Not just critical to producing the next generation of scientists but, more importantly, IMHO, to producing informed and engaged citizens.

  5. Mary Bigelow
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Another opportunity for teacher-scientists:

  6. Harry E. Keller
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    That article cited by Mary Bigelow states, “Decked in full lab gear and ready to learn, Spiris worked in a sterile lab, conducting projects that allowed her firsthand experience with tasks such as separating t-cells from blood and freeze-drying plasma.”

    The article misses the real benefit of a RET program, learning about the nature of science firsthand. It’s not the details of lab work that count. It’s the process of deciding what to investigate, how to investigate, reviewing data, drawing conclusions, finding out what didn’t work, elucidating the causes of errors, adjusting experimental parameters, and so much more. It’s the thinking wherein lies the science, not the doing.

  7. Aaron Reedy
    Posted February 16, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I run a teacher fellowship program at the University of Virginia. We advise teachers as they do real science! http://www.evolutioned.org/ We would love to hear from any interested teachers.

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