QUEST 2021 Follow Up

During this summer’s second virtual QUEST summer institute, we featured 3 FREE teacher institutes From Farm to Fork: Analysis of Food Systems,  Climate & the Ocean, and Elementary Math: From Anxiety to Mastery! The Teacher Preparation Program acknowledges and appreciates the generous support from Professor Rubenstein and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, John Henry and the New Jersey School Boards Association, The Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System (CIMES), and Laura Overdeck and the Bedtime Math Foundation.

The Program for Teacher Preparation truly appreciates teachers as experts in education and is honored to continue offering programming that is both meaningful to teachers as learners and practitioners. Thank you to all the participants for investing in your own learning this summer with us!

During the 6-day QUEST: From Farm to Fork: Analysis of Food Systems, thirteen teachers from twelve NJ schools engaged in investigations using “food” as a hook for learning. With an introductory lecture by Princeton University’s Daniel Rubenstein, the Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a member of the Teacher Preparation Program’s advisory council, teachers enthusiastically began QUEST. Teachers took a “virtual field trip” to the farm to observe the processes that affect farm productivity and see the data collection tools hosted by Gina Talt. Teachers developed questions to investigate based on patterns in archived farm data to determine causation in a variety of topics from farm productivity to the role of waste. Some of the questions teachers came up with were: How does the cultivation method (till or no-till) influence the crop yield for chard and zucchini on three farms in Central NJ  in 2020? Does the feet planted affect the waste amounts? Does richness of insect population affect area/volume of plant growth? Using archived farm data and computer software that displays visualizations that reveal patterns, teachers developed graphs, analyses, and explanations to try to address their individual and group questions. Support from teacher leaders, Ryan Herbert *19, Helen Corveleyn, & Cory Picketts ‘04 helped to bridge the connections between the experience as a learner and a practitioner. Once the teachers’ initial question is answered and causes for the patterns are found, teachers create presentations that reveal to the class whether or not the question has truly been answered. This summer QUEST included an extra day for the teachers to allow time for lesson planning, with the support of John Henry (NJSBA). Teachers were able to reflect upon, and draft ways they could use their experience to transform science learning in their own classrooms (or schools) and present these ideas to their peers and administrators. 

“I love collaborating and being challenged by my peers.”

“Thanks for providing us with this FREE opportunity to learn more about how to enhance our teaching. It was an eye-opening experience to be the student for something that interests me.” 

“Thank you for another great program with many useful learning opportunities.  Also, thank you so much for the unique opportunity to see the Kenyan wildlife, farms, and landscapes. That was completely unexpected and exciting!!”

“Dr. Rubenstein's professional reputation and rich experience in the field already made the whole training off to an awesome start for me, and I wasn't a bit disappointed as I and other teachers went about on the journey of the discovery. The teacher leaders' skills and passion definitely added to the high quality learning experiences we students were receiving. What I appreciate about Dr. Rubenstein's teaching style was that he asked many questions in the guiding and facilitating our cognitive process. I would like to thank you for the opportunity. The training has satisfied a lot of questions I had. I will definitely do my best to apply what I learned.” 

Thanks to the support of CIMES, we were able to host QUEST: Climate and the Ocean with Danielle Schmitt, Dr. Steve Carson, and lead teacher Martha Friend! Sixteen participants from thirteen different NJ schools (public and private) attended an exciting online 4-day QUEST institute, received materials to engage in hands-on experiments at home, were provided access to many online learning resources, and connected with a lead teacher to link their learning to practice. The participants took a deep dive into the topics, asking questions and staying actively involved throughout QUEST. They were able to create a sense of community as they built connections to the topics and to each other in the whole group and in break out rooms. The participants work with a combined total of ~3,500 students annually either directly as a teacher or through providing support in a supervisory role. It was a truly great learning experience for all, which will have a lasting future impact in the classroom!

"I learned a lot. I actually had participated in a past version of this course, but this year, getting ready to teach an OpenSciEd unit on weather, climate, and water cycling, I was looking at the course through a new viewpoint."

"This is a very rewarding professional development over the summer that allowed me to increase my knowledge on climate change. I learned a lot about the ocean and how it works. We learn topics such as the thermal Circulation in the water as well as solar radiation, interactions between air land and water, ways of teaching climate change to young students as well as had great resources to use."

"I really enjoyed the experience. The level of care and thought that was evident in the creation of the experience was incredible. Thank you!"

"I had an amazing time. Perfect way to end a challenging year."

Elementary Math: From Anxiety to Mastery for teachers in grades K-5, was offered in collaboration with Bedtime Math.  Forty eight K-5 teachers participated in online sessions facilitated by Laura Overdeck ‘91 and Shayna Sackett-Gable of Bedtime Math, a nonprofit that believes elementary students will embrace and excel at math when we spark their engagement, serve different learning styles, and enable the self-pacing that is critical to mastery. During this program, K-5 teachers received hands-on materials to engage in math activities that tackle those goals while reducing math anxiety. Based on neuroscience and behavioral research with alignment to the NJSLS-Math, Fun Factor helps strengthen mental math visualization and develop understandings of place value, decomposition, and number sense. Each session introduced activities drawn from Fun Factor, Bedtime Math’s groundbreaking math program for K-5 students and teachers, which enables teachers to meet students where they are and move them forward. Teachers were introduced to how to use the materials in responsive and differentiated ways to span across the grade level needs. Teachers enjoyed engaging in the activities themselves, as they learned about the progression of mental math and fluency across all grade levels. The sessions also introduced activities and classroom discourse related to decomposition, fractions, and place value. 

“This is my second year taking the Bedtime Math through QUEST. Last summer I also did a Quest group project as well. They all have been amazing. I am looking forward to attending more sessions!!”

“Thank you so much for this opportunity to be part of such a wonderful training experience!”

“This was a fantastic workshop! I am so happy that I had the opportunity to attend! Thank you all so much!” 

“The workshops were informative and engaging. I enjoyed the whole group and small group interactions.”

“Using Zoom allows for more participation from those who may live in the state, but not the region- like myself in Bergen County. I appreciated this flexibility and feel I was able to take away just as much as I would have if this was conducted in person. Having a "zoom" option for certain QUEST workshops may be beneficial in the future- post pandemic.  Thanks for continuing to offer these workshops.”