Kaechele Elementary School in Henrico County opened this past school year, forming a new team of fourth and fifth grade teachers. Denise Robson, Karla Ott, Katie Dix, Alissa Straus and Stephanie Anderson bonded immediately and quickly became a united group working to improve instruction for their students and school.
When the new team received an email about the Virginia Institute for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) Elementary Science Institute (ESI) program at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), they were instantly intrigued.
Could this be something that could strengthen the teaching team and improve student learning? They decided to sign up and find out.
The Kaechele teachers soon discovered that teamwork and VISTA go hand-in-hand.
While in the Elementary Science Institute, the teachers learned about the value of teaching best practices in science, like problem-based learning (PBL); explored the nature of science, scientific inquiry and hands-on learning; and began working on a PBL unit that they could take back to their classrooms and implement this school year.
The Kaechele quintet hoped to instill in students the idea that science learning is ongoing, so they decided to create a PBL scenario that teachers could use across grade levels and throughout the year. What's more, the teachers embraced opportunities to teach real-world science lessons close to home.
They knew they had found the perfect opportunity when they realized that Kaechele Elementary School carries a LEED certification (a green rating that supports the health and well-being of occupants and helps to conserve energy, resources and money). The teachers decided to focus on the school’s effect on the environment. They created a PBL based on the problem: “How can students at Kaechele conserve resources and reduce the negative impacts of our school-wide carbon footprint?”
The team is currently working to make their green lesson plan a comprehensive initiative that involves all grade levels. Fortunately, the school’s principal, Cindy Patterson, is a strong advocate of PBL and has supported the VISTA approach to science instruction school-wide.
Kaechele students are poised to reap the benefits of their teachers’ and administrators' involvement!