Summer Teacher Institute Receives Record Number of Applicants

by | Mar 21, 2016

The Education and Outreach team at Boyce Thompson Institute have a tough job on their hands: selecting a handful of the hundreds of highly qualified teachers who applied to their Curriculum Development Projects in Plant Biology summer teacher institute.

The group received 187 complete applications—three times more than last year—but only have space for 14 attendees for their intensive weeklong course in plant biology research and curricula. Teachers participate in researcher-led seminars and receive advanced training in inquiry-based lab activities developed from current BTI research programs. They also receive a small stipend, travel assistance and continued support for teaching the activities in their classrooms.

“It’s extraordinarily challenging to whittle down this group,” said Becky Sims, BTI’s teaching lab coordinator. “I feel badly that we can’t work with all these really amazing teachers. There is a real need to expand opportunities like these to accommodate more STEM educators.”

Teachers applied from 32 states, including Alaska. The great majority of applicants heard about the program through a teacher listserve or from a colleague who had previously attended the course.

Teacher Map

Teachers interested in BTI’s Curriculum Development Projects in Plant Biology summer institute applied from all over the U.S.

“I especially would like to learn more about research in the classroom and possibly use that to find alternative methods to provide hands-on learning experiences that engage and inspire my students,” wrote a recent applicant. “All of my students are inner-city kids to whom college and furthering education is not a priority. I aim for my experience and knowledge acquired through the summer program to be shared with my students through learning.”

Sims and Director of Education and Outreach Tiffany Fleming will make selections to create a diverse class of teachers who serve varied populations of students. They choose teachers from a range of STEM subjects and experience levels. A segment of the participants also must come from “high-needs” schools, a classification used to describe schools with a majority of students who qualify for free or reduced-cost meals.

“These selection criteria enable us to direct resources and support to excellent teachers in schools and communities with fewer resources available for hands-on, project based learning, or basic experimental equipment,” said Fleming. “A major goal of the program is to ensure that a broader population of students across the country have opportunities to learn about and engage in cutting-edge science.”

Teachers who are not selected are encouraged to apply to other BTI teacher programs throughout the year and can still access high quality lesson plans based on BTI research. The growing library of plant science curricula, along with other educational resources, are available on the BTI website.

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