Earning credit critical for continuing to teach high school science
Jennifer teaches Earth, Environmental and ACE (Accelerated College Experience) Environmental Science to 9th-12th graders in rural New York State. She has been teaching for 4 years. Although she has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science Policy and Management, and a Masters in teaching with certification for grades 1-6, Jennifer still needed to complete 12 credit hours in order to become certified to teach high school science and remain in her current teaching position. Jennifer took two other Seminars on Science courses prior to enrolling in The Solar System in January 2008.
There is no college in my area that has Earth Science as a degree program where I could get graduate credit, which is what I really needed. [Taking the SOS course] allowed me to get my certification, and allowed me to keeping teaching the course I am teaching today. Without being able to take the course I potentially could have lost my job. There is no place around here that has those course offerings at that level. It was a huge, huge thing because my job relied on me getting that course work done.
Finding content-based professional development more valuable than other professional development
Jennifer enjoyed learning about a subject area that she teaches on a regular basis, and especially the focus on content.
Other professional development deals with how to teach and this dealt with what I was teaching, and so it helped to broaden my perspective and information on the topic, as opposed to telling me how to teach the topic.
I thoroughly enjoyed the course because I have never taken an astronomy course before... it really helped me see the information differently and add onto the information I already knew.
Appreciating the flexibility of taking the 6-week course on-line
The flexibility of the online course was a big plus for Jennifer, who needed to be teaching full-time while taking it.
The two big things for me were the way the course is set up so that it doesn't interfere with what I'm doing in the classroom, and not having to worry about rushing home and trying to get to class. I get all of my assignments up front and I submit them online. The other thing was the blog type atmosphere and having people write back and forth [during the course], so you still get the interaction that you get in a classroom but you don't have to worry about rushing there and having 2 or 3 hours of your time taken up a week.
Another advantage was the concentrated time frame for the course.
Getting 3 credits in 6 weeks was wonderful. Not having to go into the classroom, being able to get my assignments done throughout the week, but still gaining the same amount of information that I would have if I had taken a semester course was absolutely wonderful because I was able to keep all of my other obligations at the same time.
Gaining knowledge and activities that strengthen teaching
The Solar System Course has impacted Jennifer's teaching. She is now better prepared to answer student questions, and she has an enjoyable and effective new activity that she has been able to adapt from the course to use with her own students.
When the kids ask questions, some of their more in-depth questions or the ones that surprise me, which they have seen on TV, I have better answers for them. We also did an activity where we looked at size and scale of objects within the universe and I have used that with my earth science class. I use it with my kids to do the moon and earth to give them a perspective on the size of objects out in space.
Jennifer highly recommends this course to other teachers.
I would say if you are an earth science teacher and you are looking to expand your knowledge of astronomy, [The Solar System] is a worthwhile course. If you are interested in astronomy it is a worthwhile course because I believe it hits a college level, but it also allows for anybody who has not dealt with astronomy an awful lot to pick up the information. And just seeing a different way to approach and use materials in the classroom is useful.
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