Nevada Educators Really Doing Science
The NERDS (Nevada Educators Really Doing Solar) program is a year-long program at the Raggio Research Center, funded by the EPSCoR Nexus grant. The program combines a focus on professional development in science teaching with research in science education. The participants of the program are educators from the state of Nevada. The teachers are asked to participate in the research by completing questionnaires and surveys throughout the process. The NERDS program is dedicated to helping teachers develop their skills in teaching science and solar energy through the process of inquiry.
Every NERDS course is designed to lead teachers, step by step, from "expert"-designed investigations to student-centered investigations through an active process of participation. Eight Nevada educators were accepted into the NERDS 2014 program. Two teams of four educators were created for the NERDS process.
A pre-session at the university in May 2014 introduced teachers to the NERDS model and allowed time for preliminary research data to be collected. Additionally, the pre-session prepared participants to go into the field. Dr. Jennifer Hollander and Dr. Jeffrey Baguley from the Biology Department at the university provided participants with a content lecture containing information on the environment the participants would conduct their research in during the summer. Moreover, the pre-session provided the teachers with information on inquiry and teachers completed a solar energy lesson that they could replicate in their classrooms.
The field experience portion of the course takes teachers away from familiar ecosystems near their hometown into unfamiliar territory where they must start their learning from scratch, similar to what their students experience every time a new concept is taught. NERDS 2014 offered teachers the chance to investigate the Solar Energy, Water, and Environment Nexus of the Northern Sierra in Graeagle, California from July 21-26, 2014. Two teams of teachers learned skills such as orienteering, sampling methods, and using keys to identify organisms, which support the science inquiry process. Additionally, on the first day in the field, Dr. Baguley provided the teachers with an aquatic biology lecture. Throughout the week, in small groups, teachers planned and carried out investigations in the field and communicated their results to the larger group. Upon returning home, teachers planned and carried out a lesson plan incorporating all of the skills and information they learned in the field, which is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
Two post-sessions in the fall focused on classroom assessment of the inquiry process, sharing unit/lesson plans, grade-level curriculum connections, and developing strategies for application of the NERDS experience in the classroom.