What is Pittsburgh Regional Center for Science Teachers (PRCST) and its
role in the Pittsburgh Legacy?
The Pittsburgh Regional Center for Science
Teachers (PRCST) is a non-profit organization directed by Jane Konrad
that operates as an outreach program for the University of Pittsburgh,
School of Education, Department of Instruction and Learning. For the past
five years PRCST has developed and implemented an in-service professional
development program "STS by Green Design," an Iowa Chautauqua
Program. This was based on 13 years of conducting in-service programs
integrating Science/Technology/Society through the University of Pittsburgh
(U.Pitt), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and cooperating non-profit
organizations. Summer Institutes were originally hosted by CMU. In all
of these programs, university faculty, practicing teachers/administrators,
and area scientists (including museums and corporations) came together
in educational reform efforts. Work with Dr.Indira Nair, Vice Provost
for Education, CMU, brought the Green Design component into the program.
Related work with the American Society for Materials helped expand the
use of Life Cycle Analysis in the program. The Materials Science &
Engineering Department, U.Pitt, hosted in-service days, bringing together
teachers and scientists from U. Pitt and CMU.
The STS by Green Design professional development program brings together
teams of teachers from a district to work together with their administrators
across disciplines to provide current content and resources for students
in relevant context, helping them to make connections among disciplines
and with the world outside the classroom.
In 2000, Konrad made early efforts to form
a collaboration that would focus on the exciting and richly relevant Commemoration
of the Lewis & Clark Discovery Expedition. This historical event offers
an easy and obvious platform for linking the natural and historical environments
so that students can make the connections between the science/math content
and their lives. The Senator John Heinz Regional History Center was an
initial partner. As planning developed and more interest was expressed,
this collaboration grew to include other resources. An active volunteer,
a Corporate Fellow from PPG Industries, joined the group and has served
as a vital information source and catalyst to the project development.
Now retired, Charles B. Greenberg will continue to serve as a leader to
gain corporate resources and as Product Manager, working with the Art
Institute to develop the Web site and expand the scope of the project.
The Michael Baker Corporation has joined this project as advisor/mentor
to students in the Art Institute in development of the interactive Web
Initial funding was provided by the PPG
Industries Foundation. Additional support has been received from the Alcoa
and Grable Foundations.
EDUCATIONAL FOCUS of PRCST:
This project is based on the development of an educational program for
participating schools/classes in an interactive study of Western Pennsylvania.
A special focus is on the Lewis & Clark "Discovery Expedition"
as an avenue for linking the natural, scientific, and historical environments
during the commemorative re-enactment of the original expedition planned
for the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial in 2003-2006. The local historical
significance was Lewis's work in Eastern Pennsylvania preparing for the
expedition and the beginning of the trip in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
building of the keelboat and the staging and launching of the expedition.
The impact of this historical event provides a fertile avenue for interdisciplinary
studies within a relevant context, with linkages to the broader historical
and scientific community.
This project includes the assembly and dissemination
of curricular materials based on the results of the educational program
that involves research and activities conducted by classes of students.
The program will link studies of geology, geography, Earth science, chemistry,
astronomy, engineering, botany, and biology to the history and development
of the region and the interface with the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
These curricular materials and teacher guides will be basic to the dissemination
of the program and to continuing research in the classrooms that links
Pennsylvania history to the spread of our civilization westward and its
impact on today's life.
The goals are: (1) to provide teachers an
interdisciplinary strategy for meeting the new Pennsylvania Standards
- with focus on standards for Science/Technology and Environment/Ecology,
(2) to link curricular components with relevant historical events, and
(3) to help students identify the pioneer analogy with the NASA Missions
to the moon and Mars.
Activities include: (1) observation of the
educational program in action and determining what works and what is needed,
(2) collection-assembly of the classroom materials that have been produced,
(3) documentation-collection of public exhibit and display materials available
for long-term use, and (4) publication of curricular materials suitable
for dissemination throughout Pennsylvania classrooms.
Research has shown that relevance is a key to student concept formation
and application. This project will involve teachers and students in real-world
connections to the natural and historical environments as they encounter
past and current environmental issues/concerns ranging from past and present
land use, use/abuse of natural resources, and political and economic stresses
to current regulations and trends in environmental status and protection.
While the regional focus is on the Three
Rivers of the Pittsburgh area and their watersheds, this project offers
a model for use both statewide and nationally as other watersheds and
historical events can be studied and connections between the natural and
historical environments can be made. Other sites along the Lewis &
Clark trail can make use of this model ( and even interact ) as the project
includes an effort to track the re-enactment along the entire trail via
a Web site and interactive program.
The relevance of the "Discovery Expedition"
re-enactment will spark interest of students as they observe the life
styles of the explorers. The history of Native American settlements in
this area, including the consequences of previous wars and combats, will
undergird the stories of the encounters of Lewis and Clark in the new
As these pioneers moved into relatively unknown territory, so today we
have pioneers exploring a new frontier - space. Specifically, the NASA
Mission to Mars provides another way to encounter a relatively unknown
area. The planning, tools and recruitment/training of today's "pioneers"
(while using modern technology and knowledge) reflect the necessary attention
to basics required by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Just as Lewis needed
to have the keelboat built in Pittsburgh and develop appropriate armament
and supplies for the trip west, NASA must work to develop rockets and
habitats suitable for astronauts preparing for the Mission to Mars. (Construction
of the International Space Station, ISS, is another relevant analogy.)
The space exploration analogy offers a rich
interdisciplinary approach to student-based research and learning that
is compatible with current curricula. Yet teachers need help in making
these connections and understanding how this leads to achieving the standards.
A recent survey by the Pennsylvania Department of Education - Office of
Environment/Ecology demonstrated that many teachers are not addressing
numerous strands required in the new standards. These standards are linked
to upcoming assessments scheduled to be put in place beginning in 2002
As the Pennsylvania State Department of
Education began development of academic standards and assessments, PRCST
aligned its professional development programs with these efforts. Jane
Konrad worked on the writing committee of the standards for Environment/Ecology
and development of the new Biotechnology Framework.
PRCST serves as a provider for the Math
& Science Collaborative of Western PA and Konrad served several times
on the Steering Committee, working to align efforts. She also served on
the Steering Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Eisenhower Consortium in Pennsylvania,
Research for Better Schools (RBS), for many years. More recently she chaired
a sub-committee for IMAGES, a new geometry professional development program
for elementary teachers. The PRCST program was presented to the RBS Steering
Committee. Furthermore, STS by Green Design is in place in the North Central
region through one of the seven RBS Collaboratives. Working with RBS and
NASA, the STS by Green Design instructional strategy is one of several
strategies being used in a NASA Product Dissemination Project.
As Training Facilitator for the NASA Educator
Resource Center located at the University of Pittsburgh, Konrad helps
teachers utilize the wealth of resources available from NASA - providing
workshops and bringing the NASA Science Educator into the STS by Green
Design programs. Work with the Social Studies Department of Instruction
& Learning expanded the scope of the program, helping to strengthen
the contextual framework to the present C3 approach: Content - Context
Programs conducted by PRCST align with the
goals of professional development for teachers. In addition to the STS
by Green Design Summer Institute, sustained programming addresses content
updates, skills development, opportunities for integration across disciplines,
and community contacts/resources. All programs provide for immersion in
Inquiry in Science. Other program aspects may include curriculum adaptation,
action research, using students' work to understand their thinking, teacher
study groups, and the integration of technology.
The status of quality professional development
is currently being addressed by the National Science Teachers Association
(NSTA). Recommendations of a task force have been accepted by the Board
of Directors and are in the process of development and implementation
led by a standing Professional Development Committee.
The Task Force defines Professional Development
Services as any materials, services, or programs designed to improve the
quality of science teaching and learning. These would include: a coordinated
effort with existing activities within NSTA (publications, conventions,
Building a Presence), as well as with new activities such as leadership
development for teachers, administrators, and others; content-based workshops
developed around the National Science Education Standards ( NSES); on-site
and/or distance delivery of content courses that model inquiry-based learning
and other methods recommended by the NSES; mentoring and coaching of individual
teachers or administrators; coordinated approaches to help administrators
integrate science throughout the curriculum (literacy, mathematics, technology,
etc.); and services which help develop appropriate assessments for recommended
Recommendations of the National Science
Education Standards state that all professional development programs and
o promote learning essential science content through the perspectives
and methods of inquiry
o ?integrate knowledge of science, learning,
pedagogy, and students and apply that knowledge to science teaching
o build understanding and ability for lifelong
o be coherent and integrate
In addition to these national standards
of quality, the Committee believes that any professional development tools
or programs developed [or endorsed] by NSTA should meet these additional
o Be Scalable: For any professional development
activity to be cost-effective for NSTA, it must be "transportable,"
that is, have the potential to be scaled up to serve a number of teachers
and/or school districts in a number of geographic areas. In addition,
for real reform to occur, NSTA will need to reach many more teachers of
science, thus the ability to scale up all offerings will be critical.
o Be Flexible and Comprehensive: Again to reach as many teachers and schools/districts
as possible, all PD activities need to be relevant to a variety of different
teachers and school districts, and comprehensive enough to meet a variety
of needs, locales, expertise, etc. However, the materials and services
must also be flexible in sizing and methods of offering to ensure that
NSTA can meet the differing place and time constraints of teachers, which
too often limit teacher participation in time- and place-bound summer
or convention workshops.
o Include Assessment: All NSTA PD activities should include assessments
embedded in all courses, institutes, publications, and other activities.
These assessment tools should be designed to evaluate participant learning
as well as to inform materials developers to ensure that the activities
are continually evaluated and improved.
o Include Follow-up Mentoring: Whether the follow-up is one-on-one meetings
or electronic "chat rooms" designed to encourage discussion
and problem solving, the Task Force believes that follow-up mentoring
is critical for ensuring a successful and meaningful professional development
experience. All materials and programs developed or endorsed by NSTA should
include such a component.
NATIONAL PRE K-12 ENVIRONMENT STATUS/NEEDS:
The Glenn Report, "Before It's Too
Late", prepared by the National Commission on Mathematics and Science
Teaching for the 21st Century [2000 http://www.ed.gov/americacounts/glenn/report.pdf],
recommends a focus on professional development. "We are of one mind
in our belief that the way to interest children in mathematics and science
is through teachers who are not only enthusiastic about their subjects,
but who are also steeped in their disciplines and who have the professional
training - as teachers - to teach those subjects well. Nor is this teacher
training simply a matter of preparation; it depends just as much - or
even more - on sustained high-quality professional development
professionals do not maintain and expand their knowledge and skills, they
Preliminary findings from Academic excellence
for All Urban Students sites support NSF's evolving belief that certain
"drivers" are central to successful and lasting systemic reform.
"These results are a testament to the power of professional development,"
said Harold Pratt, NSTA President. "We believe strongly that quality
teaching is the single most important factor in improving student performance,
and at the same time, enables all students to reach national goals of
literacy in science, mathematics, and technology."
Much emphasis has been on the plight of
the urban educational system. But a recent report from the Pennsylvania
Partnerships for Children, "Miles To Go: The Well-Being of Pennsylvania's
Rural Children," found that the state's nearly 500,000 rural children
are dealing with challenges as difficult as those of students in urban
areas: 18% live in poverty, 24% of families have single-parent heads,
1in 12 rural children is born to a mother under 20, and 1 in 6 is born
to a mother who has less than a high school education. [http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/issues277.shtml].
As stated in the new national effort "No
Child Left Behind" [2001 http://www.ed.gov/inits/nclb/titlepage.html],
we must serve all students so that the achievement gap does not grow wider
New academic standards are emerging at both
the national and state levels in an effort to enhance the achievement
levels of American students. This educational reform effort is seen in
the multiple disciplines of K-12 education. Led by development of national
standards in mathematics in 1995, the national standards in science education
followed. Academic standards at state levels are swiftly being developed
and adopted. Pennsylvania has adopted academic standards in the area of
Mathematics, Reading/ Communication, Science/Technology and Environment/Ecology.
Standards in other areas are in the process of development. Assessment
programs for each of these areas are either in use or being constructed.
Other states are under similar pressure to implement some form of academic
standards and student achievement measurement.
The National Research Council recently released
a report on assessments. Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design
of Educational Assessment is an in-depth report that addresses how current
classroom and large-scale assessments should be influenced by the contemporary
theories of how students think and learn. Access online at www.nap.edu
The American Association for the Advancement
of Science (AAAS) has a program in place for professional development
for teachers, and a professional development program is supported by the
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
HIGHER EDUCATION ENVIRONMENT:
The University of Pittsburgh School of Education
committed early to the issues of pre-K-12 educational reform. Teachers
applying for certification or for advanced degrees are required to first
attain an undergraduate degree in their discipline of choice. Upon acceptance
into the Department of Instruction and Learning, teachers are placed in
practicums or internships in cooperating school districts. Here they work
with mentor teachers and apply the information and training received in
the graduate program. Supervisors maintain contact with the mentor teachers
and the students as their education progresses. The elementary and secondary
faculty work together to provide a consistent and coherent program.
A Professional Development Network is in
place that brings together school districts - administrators and mentor
teachers, university faculty, and education students.
A new initiative is coordination of faculty
across disciplines in elements of their curricula, to emphasize coherence
in the educational program. Alignment of lesson planning, portfolio submissions
and the incorporation of technology are already in place. Plans for faculty
teaching elementary methods to coordinate components of their curricular
content are being developed, including a focus on the Lewis & Clark
The "Teachers Teaching Technology -
T3" program of the University brings together university faculty
and practicing teachers for training in the utilization of technology
and cooperation in curricular planning. Interested teacher/faculty participants
will be included in the Lewis & Clark Project.
Faculty in the School of Information Science
and Telecommunications at U. Pitt provide training and support in teacher
utilization of GIS software in the Geoinformatics Program, led by Dr.