While summer break often conjures up images of relaxation, such as reading a paperback novel on a sandy beach or sipping lemonade on a shady porch, in reality, many members of the Rowland Hall community are working between June and August. The months without daily classes allow staff to tackle major projects, including upgrades to campus facilities, and teachers have more time for collaboration and conference travel.
This summer, three of our faculty members in the middle and upper schools will be engaged in particularly exciting professional development opportunities, which are sure to reap benefits for the entire community. Read on to learn where Rob Wilson, Alisa Poppen, and Jeremy Innis are headed!
Upper School biology teacher Rob Wilson (pictured, top) will spend four days at the University of California, Davis, for a Penn State-sponsored program called Arctic Plant Phenology Learning through Engaged Science (APPLES). Led by a group of researchers, Rob and a cohort of selected teachers will study climate science as it relates to Arctic ecology, with a focus on developing a classroom project he can implement at Rowland Hall next year.
Rob has been making changes to his curriculum over the past few years, both to support the school's Strategic Plan and to align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The APPLES workshop will incorporate three-dimensional learning from the NGSS and even provide teachers with equipment—such as cameras or warming chambers—they can use to conduct experiments with students in the future.
"We don't spend a lot of time with living things in biology classrooms nowadays," Rob said. He believes the new equipment and methodology will enable him to teach with more living models, in turn empowering his students to develop an intuitive sense of living systems. "It's something you can't really test—you have to experience it," he added.
The APPLES workshop will also allow Rob to begin a collaboration with leading climate science researchers, one he hopes to continue for several years.
Alisa Poppen, Upper School science department chair, travels to Ames, Iowa, in mid-June to spend seven weeks working as a research assistant in a genetics laboratory at Iowa State University. The paid assistantship is part of the Research Experiences for Teachers program, funded by the National Science Foundation.
"Because I'm in the classroom all day, I don't have the opportunity to engage in long-term research projects," Alisa said. "I'm excited to spend this time on a college campus, in a lab, interacting with people who focus on scientific research all day."
Alisa's participation in the program comes at an ideal time for Rowland Hall, as the Upper School will be transitioning all science courses from Advanced Placement to Advanced Topics (AT) beginning in the fall. She hopes the material she encounters in the genetics lab—which for her, specifically, will be the study of chromosomal variation in species of cotton—will help inform the curriculum for AT biology courses, especially in the area of molecular biology. She also plans to use her summer-immersion experience to reinforce the value of classroom laboratory practices with students.
"I believe it's motivating for our students to know that what we're doing is the same thing real scientists do," she said.
Interfaith Chaplain Jeremy Innis was one of 25 teachers selected to participate in the Religious Worlds Institute, a summer fellowship supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Jeremy will spend three weeks in New York City participating in field studies, reading texts, attending presentations, and collaborating with peers to assess and develop curriculum.
Jeremy applied for the Institute in large part because he wants to enhance the experiential learning component of world religions courses at Rowland Hall. He hopes visiting religious sites in New York City and participating in community rituals will give him new ideas for preparation and student reflection on field visits.
He is excited to have the opportunity to be a student again and mentioned looking forward to a presentation on Islam by one of his former professors from Harvard. "Broadening my own perspective on the diversity of religious beliefs and practices will also help me develop new curriculum for the chapel program," Jeremy said. "I'm fascinated by some of the sites we will visit and looking forward to meeting and speaking with many different people of faith."