September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Supporting Partnerships Between Informal and Formal Educators

Posted: Thursday, September 1st, 2011

by Grahme Smith

The current trend among informal education centers is to transition from passive “dispensers of information” into dynamic places that encourage active learning. The goal is to create an exchange of ideas between these Institutions and the public so that the learning is more engaging and relevant for everyone. In an age where information is only a click away, more emphasis needs to be put on self-discovery and experiential learning. This same trend, in which students gain knowledge from their own experiences and ideas, is happening in formal classrooms as well. While students still need to learn basic concepts and facts, it is more important that they are able to reason, problem solve, and come to their own informed conclusions. By supporting and empowering students to take control of their own learning, they become more invested in the material. When the content is relevant and personal to them, they gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the issues. The same is true in any profession. A chef is more proud of a recipe she creates than the one taken from a cookbook, just as we are more proud of the partnerships and lessons we develop than the ones we are told to implement. I would like to use this space to foster a dialog between formal and informal educators so that we can better understand each other and can be empowered to form authentic partnerships.


When I taught high school, I saw informal institutions as places to take my students to on field trips and places for me to take workshops. While these were both great experiences, I felt a barrier or lack of communication between informal and formal educators. I rarely felt like I was a true partner with, or a peer, of these Institutions and therefore was never invested in what they were doing.

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My goal with this column is to pose a question monthly that will support an ongoing dialog between formal and informal educators. I encourage you to share your experiences, thoughts and ideas so we can better understand each other, develop lasting relationships, and create partnerships that will help enhance science education. As budgets are cut and less and less priority is given to science, there is ever growing need for us to work in collaboration. These discussions alone aren’t going to knock down any barriers, but they are small steps towards supporting a dialog between all educators and developing the synergy necessary to improve California’s science education.

This month I’ll start by asking you when you’ve seen, or been a part of, a successful collaboration between formal and informal educators. Please explain what you think were the key components in fostering this relationship.

Grahme Smith is manager at the Teacher Institute on Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences and CSTA’s informal science director.

 

Written by Grahme Smith

Grahme Smith is manager at the Teacher Institute on Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences and CSTA’s informal science director (2011-2013.

2 Responses

  1. Castle Challenger Learning Center in Atwater, CA, Merced Co Office of Education, and Merced County fifth and eighth grade teachers have partnered to teach structured inquiry lessons using the GEMS Space Sciences Program followed by a trip to CLC for a simulated mission to study Comet Halley (5th) or Mars (8th). This is funded by a five year NASA grant. Accountability is maintained through pre and post tests taken by both teachers and students. About 45 teachers are participating in ten school districts.

  2. Thanks Susan and I have a question- Did the teachers have input on the development of the curriculum or were they just trained how to implement it? If they did have input, what did that look like? How did they collaborate?

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Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

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Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

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Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

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Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

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