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Dr. Lori Maxfield

Dr Lori Maxfield

When the faculty of the Education Department at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota was first introduced to GLOBE, Associate Dean Lori Maxfield immediately recognized the potential value in introducing teachers-in-training to GLOBE's protocols, free online teaching tools, and opportunities to connect school children with scientists. St. Catherine University's STEM faculty and Education faculty quickly joined in a collaborative effort to develop a model of pre-service teacher training which structures science teaching on age-appropriate GLOBE investigations of Atmosphere, Hydrology, Soils and other GLOBE protocols. The result was St. Kate's unique STEM Certificate and Minor for teachers-in-training. St. Kate's is the only elementary education department in the United States that requires STEM certification of all graduates. The innovative program has resulted in a cadre of primary school teachers entering the workforce with solid scientific training and a confident approach to teaching science.

As an outgrowth of this successful implementation, a partnership was developed to link pre-service teachers prior to their teaching assignments with classroom teachers and higher education faculty in the delivery of curriculum and experiences related specifically to environmental education. The result was EcoSTARS, launched in 2005 with initial support from the Jeffers Foundation and continuing currently with support for training and equipment from Xcel Foundation, HB Fuller Foundation, and Qwest. The EcoSTARS model matches teachers-in-training with working teachers to engage K-5 students in a 5-week program teaching basic concepts of environmental science using GLOBE protocols that are specific to grade levels and aligned with Minnesota Academic Standards in Science. Students collect soil samples, rainfall measurements and air temperature and then submit their data to the GLOBE database.

Each year, EcoSTARS works with approximately 40 classroom and pre-service teachers and more than 1,100 students and has become a notable success story for all involved. St. Catherine education majors gain confidence and knowledge in teaching environmental education. Teachers in participating schools gain informed, enthusiastic classroom support. And elementary students gain a jump-start on concepts of environmental science with a passion for responsible environmental stewardship, as well. Writes, Dr. Maxfield, "EcoSTARS has provided many opportunities for collaboration with pre-service teachers, in-service teachers and higher education faculty that enhanced the learning for all. The pre-service teachers develop lessons around environmental education and receive mentoring from a classroom teacher and the higher education faculty member. The in-service classroom teachers develop skills in mentoring novice teachers, as well as additional professional development in the design of lessons. For the higher education faculty, the interactions provide opportunities to revise methods-level courses that provide authentic experiences based on current classroom settings."

Dr. Maxfield, writes fondly of her GLOBE memories. "In the first year, we used the small pond on the school grounds to conduct the water temperature and transparency protocols. Even though there was a local water site that would have provided a more valuable experience for the fourth graders, the principal was reluctant to have the children near the water for safety reasons. In our second year, we were able to design an experience for the fourth graders that eased the principal's discomfort around safety and we took the children to the local pond. It was amazing to see the children so engaged in taking careful measurements and making observations about the local pond. In both cases, the joy of learning expressed by the students always puts a smile on my face. Without GLOBE, we would not likely be able to provide this type of experiential learning."