Elementary Science Institute (ESI) FAQs

1. Who is eligible?

Full-time 4th-6th grade classroom teachers who teach science at public schools in Virginia are eligible to apply for VISTA’s Elementary Science Institute (ESI).

2. How many people are needed for a team?

Teams must have at least two eligible teachers and can have up to six teachers.

3. Do all the team members need to be from the same school?

Yes. If you do not have at least two eligible teachers at your school who wish to participate please contact us.

4. Do all the team members need to be from the same grade level?

No; however, it is more beneficial when there are at least two teachers from the same grade level on a team. For example, a team could have two 4th grade teachers, two 5th grade teachers, and two 6th grade teachers!

5. Can people be added and/or removed from our team once we apply?

Yes, people can be added and/or removed up until the summer institute begins as long as there's a minimum of two eligible teachers on the team. 

6. What happens if someone from our team is no longer able to participate after the summer institute starts?

If there are still at least two eligible teachers on the team, that isn't a problem. However, if your team only had two people to begin with, the remaining teacher may have to withdraw from the program as well. The remaining teacher should contact us for more information.

7. Are special education teachers eligible?

In order to be eligible, you must be a 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom teacher who teaches science and has students' science grades and SOLs scores linked to your name. In some school divisions, this is true for special education teachers. Please contact us for more information.

8. How many days can I miss from the Elementary Science Institute (ESI)?

You can miss up to three days without having to withdraw from VISTA; however, your stipend will be reduced for each day you are absent. NOTE: Attendance is particularly critical during the first week of the ESI and every effort should be made to avoid absences during that period.

9. Are there any responsibilities for teachers other than attending the summer institute?

While at the Institute, you will learn how to create a problem-based learning (PBL) lesson. We ask that you also implement a PBL unit in your classroom once the school year begins. 

10. When is the stipend paid?

The stipend is paid in installments throughout your participation in the program. 

12. Can I pick which site our team will attend?

We assign teams to sites based on geography and enrollment. Our first priority is to minimize participants' travel. However, it may be necessary to have certain teams travel to a more distant site because of the number of participants in a particular area. If you would like to change your team's assignment, please contact us to see if a switch can be made; however, we cannot guarantee placement at a particular site.

13. Does VISTA pay for a substitute teacher while I'm at the VAST conference?

No. Principals indicate that they will cover the cost of a substitute when they fill out the support form. Please be aware, however, that each school handles this absence differently and you may need to use a personal leave day.

14. Can the Elementary Science Institute (ESI) help me with recertification?

Upon completion of the ESI, you will receive a certificate documenting the number of hours of professional development you completed through the program. Please check with your school division's licensure specialist to determine if you can count those hours toward Option 8: Professional Development Activities.

15. When will my team know if it has been selected to participate in ESI?

Applications for the elementary program typically close in late February. Our evaluation team will then verify everyone's eligibility. Teams will be notified of their status by mid-March.