Since 2009, our Vital Signs program has connected Maine students with scientists and citizen scientists online. Together, they investigate and contribute valuable data to real environmental research.
Providing these opportunities for students is critical, but the work we do with teachers is just as important.
Over the past six years, the Vital Signs team has hosted many professional development workshops to support teachers throughout the state. In that time, over 300 teachers have come through the doors of our Commercial St. lab to learn how to implement Vital Signs in their classrooms.
But for some teachers, it just isn’t possible to travel all the way to Portland. As part of our greater effort to provide equal access to STEM learning across the state, we’ve now developed a virtual module for teachers to learn about Vital Signs on their own time.
This past month, we held our first ever online introductory workshop for Vital Signs. Over the course of three weeks in August, teachers explored Vital Signs and how they might use the program in their classrooms.
After participating in the online workshop, teachers posted their reflections to the educator forum, sharing insights, observations, and experiences. Vital Signs staff also made themselves available to teachers through online office hours. During these hours, staff held video chat sessions to answer teachers’ questions.
Despite participating virtually, the teachers made it clear in their reflections that they were still excited about Vital Signs.
“[Vital Signs] isn't just a bunch of activities,” one teacher told us. “The students learn skills in research and observation as scientists, while participating as scientists in important research projects. There is also a variety of projects that allows for students to find areas of personal interest. We can even design our own investigation.”
The success of the online teacher workshops has encouraged the Vital Signs team. They hope that as more teachers from around the state learn about Vital Signs online, they will continue to participate for years to come.