Online Professional Development
The traditional teacher professional development paradigm involves in-person, out-of-school contact with professional staff. While this approach to professional development can be highly successful and is particularly important in situations where teachers must actually learn how to use new materials like microscopes, multimeters, and other science equipment they may have never come in contact with in the past, there are significant drawbacks involved in this form of professional development.
First, the benefits of in-person professional development are completely lost to all those who do not attend one-time professional development sessions. These include not only staff that are unable to attend the in-person training, but also ALL staff that are hired subsequent to the original, in-person professional development. For example, of the 39 current LabLearner schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn system, 10 have new principals that were not on staff when LabLearner professional development was provided at initial program implementation. The number of new teachers is harder to estimate but surely presents a similar problem. That is, how does a teacher or principal who never attended LabLearner training, for whatever reason, effectively teach their students using this remarkable program? This is perhaps most critical for new principals – how can one effectively oversee, coach, and champion a STEM education system that they received no training in?
Online LabLearner professional development is the obvious answer to these problematic issues. Not only will online LabLearner professional development help new staff fully understand the details of the LabLearner system, but it will also serve as a continuous source of refreshment for staff that originally received in-person LabLearner professional development but would like to review the material anytime from anywhere.
Building STEM Through Online Professional Development
In the section included under the main menu item entitled simply More, we discuss the entire concept of building STEM from a rigorous science base. As highlighted near the end of that section (Building STEM), we strongly encourage phasing the STEM components (Science, Mathematics, Technology, and Engineering) over a four-year timespan.
A successful STEM curriculum needs to be implemented over a period of time. Asking teachers and students to embrace a new hands-on science curriculum while simultaneously tying it into the math curriculum and introducing technology and engineering projects is a recipe for failure.
The concept of the four-year roll-out of full STEM implementation, particularly the logic of beginning with and building from the Science curriculum, is discussed in much greater detail in the Building STEM section of this proposal.
Increased Depth and Relevance
Not only can digital professional development be used as training for new teaching staff and a refresher for trained staff, but it also offers the opportunity to add increased content depth as well as up to the minute application of STEM principles and concepts to contemporary science/technology issues students may encounter outside the classroom.
News viewed on television and/or discussed by adults at the dinner table is relevant to students, particularly if they are studying related topics in school at the time. Thus, oil spills, climate change, epidemics, severe weather, and so on can be used to help students appreciate the relevance of their schoolwork. In further developing digital professional development for the Diocese of Brooklyn, we propose providing weekly updates for classroom discussions tied to the LabLearner curriculum and hands-on experiments.
“Start-Up” Online Professional Development
Due to LabLearner’s commitment and deep interest in improving science learning and teacher professional development, we have already begun to introduce one level of digital professional development into our operations. It is specifically for the professional development provided at the time of the initiation of a new LabLearner school. To address the issue of teachers absent from in-person training, as well as to provide complete review materials for teachers to examine as needed, we have introduced an online professional development component in our most recent installations. In the Brooklyn Diocese, this includes St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Academy on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, which was installed on February 6, 2020. A screenshot from this new LabLearner teacher professional development website is shown here.
The website is used by teachers during the opening professional development sessions at a new LabLearner school so that they become familiar with the digital instruction for later use. Teachers use their own laptops, iPads, or in some cases, smartphones to follow along with their training. It is therefore quite natural for them to subsequently use the website for review. We propose to make this form of online professional development available to all teachers as a component of the multi-year phase-in STEM building online professional development model discussed above.
Carol Grugan, LabLearner Teacher
There are so many good things to say about LabLearner Science. However, the “ahs”, the “ohs” and the other squeals of delight that come from the students during our labs, let us know that these student scientists have grasped another important science concept. Hands-on learning has proved exciting and productive!
Geralyn Arcieri, LabLearner Teacher
The LabLearner curriculum is awesome; however, when I first experienced the LabLearner training sessions, I wasn’t too sure if this is what we were looking for at St. Bernadette Catholic Academy. With much trepidation, in September we launched this new program in a fully equipped lab. That first week totally blew my mind! Students who never used microscopes were jumping in and using them like pros. Everything I taught them was being retained! This was due in part to all the hands-on experiences they were gaining! 5th Grade learned terms such as wet mount, dry mount, etc. When it came time to do the performance assessment, the students in grades 3-5 sailed through them. All you could overhear was that this was the best test they had ever taken! 3rd grade learned so much about electricity and some of their parents who are electricians were so impressed with what their little ones were learning. My 4th graders were acting like true future doctors in the Human Body cell and my 5th graders were so proud to find out where they came from in their Genetics cell!
Dan, LabLearner Grade 8 Student
I enjoy going to lab because every Monday morning when I remember that it’s pre-lab day, I get excited to learn how and what we are going to discover in the next day’s lab class.
Sheena Byrnes, LabLearner Teacher
LabLearner is an incredible program for the students in my school. We used it for the first time last year and it had a huge impact on both the students and myself. I was able to teach Science in a way that I was never able to before because I finally had equipment that allowed the students to reach their full potential. Students came in asking to go to the lab every day and loved being there. They enjoyed everything from wearing the lab coats to using equipment and materials most students don’t see until high school or college.
We had our annual Science fair in May and students came up with ideas that were more advanced than they were in the past. They were asking to borrow things from the lab to complete their projects. We had a very successful year in Science and the LabLearner program was the main reason why. I am excited to use it again this year and I would highly recommend it to other schools.
Gary, LabLearner Kindergarten Student
I like pouring stuff into beakers.
Michelle Nitsche, LabLearner Principal
The LabLearner curriculum has helped our students develop critical thinking skills. The weekly labs build upon previous concepts learned in each investigation and challenge students to work collaboratively to “think outside the box”. The LabLearner curriculum also does a great job with providing students with hands on, real world STEM experiences.
Mike Ward, LabLearner Teacher
I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from Nativity students who are/were in high school and have/had a better foundation for the specialized science classes there. I really believe in the value of the program. Students who have gone through LabLearner here tend to do very well in high school. They tell me so.
Brian Palmer, LabLearner Principal
I have noticed in students writing and presentations outside of science the use of science vocabulary. For example, one student was sharing her story about marshmallows in her hot chocolate. She used the word buoyant to describe her marshmallows. She more than likely would not have used that word in her writing had it not been for the LabLearner curriculum.
Isabelle, LabLearner Kindergarten Student
I like pouring and holding. I like coloring in our lab books.
Kathleen Kenney, LabLearner Teacher
My students enjoy using the LabLearner program because every child can be involved in the construction of the demonstration, recording information, and analyzing the results. I am happy to see that they are more focused on the science tasks than they had been in past years. My students ask thoughtful questions in response to what happens during the investigations. I can see them mentally putting 2 and 2 together while they try to connect each investigation to the last one. The fact that LabLearner investigations spiral and constantly reinforce concepts with each lesson is great! It’s like a built in review! The material is sometimes complicated and presents concepts on a higher level than my students are used to, but the program also lets the children learn the information step-by-step. They’re not just reading about the scientific principles; they’re witnessing them firsthand.
Devin, LabLearner Grade 7 Student
My older sister is taking freshman biology, and we are learning about some of the same things in seventh grade. LabLearner makes me feel smart.
Kathy Buscemi, LabLearner Principal
Saint Bernard Catholic Academy loves it’s LabLearner STEM Lab. From our 3 year old in Jr. PreK to our 8th graders, the students look forward to their time in the lab. The teachers love the layout of the workbooks. Material is presented in a very easy to follow, logical manner. The students are well prepared intellectually for the discovery part of the lesson in the lab.
Caterina Cuoco, LabLearner Teacher
Every LabLearner investigation gives the students a better understanding of what is focused on during the hands-on lab as the vocabulary words for each lesson beforehand are a great key in preparation. Each unit allows a good understanding of the main topics covered, which relate to daily life. Evidence has shown the students have scored high in each assessment for every lab lesson, which is based on the visuals, lab results and understanding of each investigation.
Paige, LabLearner Grade 5 Student
I like the science lab because we get to work with partners and we get to use a lot of cool science stuff.
Mary Basile, LabLearner Principal
St. Clare Catholic Academy introduced Lablearner to both the students and the parents in September 2017. It was very exciting for the students to be able to utilize the state-of-the-art science lab. Students enjoyed learning science by “doing.”
Many expressed that this program changes the way science is taught and learned. Students learn so much from one another. Our students worked together gathering information, experimenting and solving problems. It was evident that conversations were taking place, students began listening and respecting each others ideas and the feeling of accomplishment were had by all. Our students look at science in a whole different way. We look forward to another year with this program.
Ann DiNovis, LabLearner Teacher
Two of our 7th graders placed high in a competition called “You be the Chemist.” Most other schools in the area had been preparing for this contest since September, but OMPH only found out about it in January. I credit LabLearner with how well our two 7th grades did in the contest because they are in the lab every week and doing a lot of chemistry. One student came in third and is eligible to go to the state competition at Penn State. The other came in fourth and is the alternate for states.
My middle school students are using lab equipment that was only available to me in high school or college. They are making wet mount slides using cross-sectioning and latitudinal sectioning. They can focus a microscope, and even magnify 1000 times using the oil immersion lens on our compound light microscopes. Because of the program, my students know how to measure. They can use graduated cylinders, rulers, triple beam balances, spring scales. They have a lot of practice graphing, and understand the difference between the dependent and independent variables, and where they belong on a graph.
Sasha, LabLearner Grade 8 Student
LabLearner makes me feel like a real scientist. Rather than having answers given to me by a teacher or textbook, my lab partners and I run through experimental procedures using real equipment to collect data. After analyzing the data, we discover the answers to questions. It’s the best way to learn!
Linda Milewski, LabLearner Principal
Blessed Trinity introduced LabLearner to their students in grades Pre-K to eight over four years ago. This research-based program has definitely changed the overall student opinion of Science. Just a few short years ago; the majority of students did not enjoy Science class. With this hands-on approach our students are interested in Science and eager to learn. Standardized test scores have shown a positive increase in student scores. I strongly believe that this increase is due to the LabLearner program.
Jacqueline Edelmann, LabLearner Teacher
This is our fourth year using the LabLearner program at The Academy of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Our grades have steadily improved both during the school year and on standardized tests.
This indicates to me that LabLearner not only delivers content knowledge, but it also delivers the skills to comprehend and analyze any scientific information presented in standardized tests. Students know how to read data tables, interpret graphs, and analyze experimental procedures and results. It is challenging, and they rise to the challenge.
Sarah Paquette, LabLearner Teacher
We are nurturing the next generation of scientists. Students need to know how their learning is relevant; why it matters. For each LabLearner CELL students work through, they develop a list of possible STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers that use the concepts they are learning about in lab.
Sr. Mary Sue Carwile, LabLearner Principal
One of the greatest strengths of the LabLearner program is its emphasis on meta-cognitive skills. Saint James students do not just absorb content, but rather think about the process and reflect on their learning at every step of the scientific method. This is in keeping with the LabLearner’s Information Processing Model and spiral curriculum that sets out to continually address critical scientific themes across elementary and middle school grades. The depth of material that each unit reaches and the emphasis placed on critical thinking, active instruction, and prior learning, in keeping with the educational philosophy of Saint James and the IHM sisters, make the science curriculum authentic and enriching for all students.
Erin Jakowenko, LabLearner Teacher
LabLearner has been a real game-changer for our students and we couldn’t be happier or more pleased that we brought the program to our school. From day one of the program, it caught our students’ attention. They were focused and driven. They worked together towards a common goal. They became the scientists leading the class and discussions, smoothly performing the labs and continuing with the performance assessments.
I have not seen such a genuine interest in exploring our world as I have with LabLearner. The students are engaged and on task and have begun to think deeper about core concepts and utilize those higher-order thinking skills we so desperately seek as educators. I can honestly say it’s because of the structure of the program and the thorough explanation of concepts that has brought such a depth of knowledge to our students. I am so grateful that I teach in a school that uses the LabLearner program!
Jackie Smith, LabLearner Teacher
I use the LabLearner program in grades 7 and 8. The students love going into the lab once a week to explore the concepts learned. When we de-briefed at the end of the year, the students shared that they prefer the hands-on aspects of LabLearner much better than the science program used in the lower grades. When alumni return to visit our elementary school, they always share that they feel prepared in high school for all the science classes due to the rigor of the LabLearner program and the regular use of varied lab equipment. Also, the math connection is strong and practical. I watch my science students use algebra skills that they never thought they would use and become proficient in graphing the data.
Stephanie Collins, LabLearner Teacher
I would like to express my many thanks and overwhelming awe with this program. I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect, from implementation to daily lessons. You definitely have a winner.
I have been teaching for over 27 years and I was surprised how much my students didn’t know. LabLearner has opened my eyes as well as my students’ eyes. I don’t know how I ever got along teaching without LabLearner. I LOVE this program!!!
Sheila Korynta, LabLearner Teacher
I have to let you know that our substitute teachers really enjoy coming into the lab to work with their students!! Amazing, huh? The substitute teachers appreciate that I set up the lab materials for them and they can proceed without any concerns. They know that our kids are SO LUCKY to have the LabLearner program here at Midway Public Schools in North Dakota!!!
Sarah Rae, LabLearner Teacher
One of my favorite aspects of LabLearner is the availability of the staff for any questions I have about the curriculum–whether it’s about the content, materials, procedure, or otherwise. Every time I’ve called, I’ve received prompt and thorough replies. It’s so wonderful to be able to depend on that kind of customer service!