The 2013 MITS Summer Professional Development Institutes, Educational Crossroads: Science, Technology and Engineering Meet Literacy and Social Sciencetook place from July 8-19 in 5 regions across Massachusetts: the Berkshires, Boston, Cape Cod and Central and Southeastern Massachusetts.MITS SI13 Logo   The MITS Institutes provide teachers with the tools to reinvigorate their students’ interest in exploring the world of science through hands-on, minds-on investigations that align with the MA Science, Technology and Engineering Framework as well as Literacy and Social Science Standards.  Teachers had the opportunity to earn both professional development points and graduate credit as they participated in these courses taught by educators from MITS partner organizations. Throughout the institute teachers interacted with their peers and learned about local resources for their classrooms.  In all the regions, teachers focused engaged in investigations that bridged the traditional science disciplines; linked their science investigations to the engineering design process, and experienced a continuum of inquiry models, which they then applied to their classroom situations.  The format for the MITS professional development institutes included two-week courses, a one-week courses, and a hybrid courses which combine online and  on-site experiences.

During the 2-week institute in the Berkshires, Connecting Science and Literacy:  Investigate it, Read it, Write it, Talk it! teachers explored the connections between science, engineering, technology and literacy. They spent several days exploring the Housatonic watershed and observing how dams affected the river. The teachers designed and constructed prototypes of a water wheel, a dam, and a mini- hydroelectric generator.  they hiked to the Keystone Arches and explored the engineering technologies that are used in developing arches and bridges.  Other days included working with Mind-Storm Lego Robots, investigating alternative energy and exploring how to apply their skill using project-based learning while incorporating literacy concepts into their science lessons.  The Berkshire Museum, Housatonic Valley Association, the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation and Marmalade Productions collaborated to develop and teach the Berkshire Region Institute. The institute was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

At the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, high school teachers explored the marine and coastal environment as they pulled seine nets, examine the invertebrates living in the mud flats to determine water quality and built watershed models.  The course Under the Periscope: Marinating Your STEM Curriculum with Marine Science, Engineering Design & Literacy Connections, include off-site visits to Woods Hole where they visited research labs, toured the HOV DeepSea Challenger which explore the deepest part of the global ocean  and participated in a hands-on sampling cruise aboard the OceanQuest.  The teachers also visited the National Marine Life Center to explored marine mammals learning about animal strandings, rehabilitation, release, research and scientific communication.  As a final activity each teacher built their own model Remotely Operative Vehicle (ROV), Sea Perch, from kits provided by the National SeaPerch program.  The ROVs were tested in the Cape Cod Canal, using underwater cameras and plankton nets to explore marine life in the canal.   The course was coordinated by the National Marine Life Center.

Middle School teachers participated in a one-week professional development institute Minds-On, Hands-On: Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering & Literacy.  The course took place in Central Massachusetts and was based at Alden Laboratories.  The teachers toured the oldest continuously operating hydraulic laboratory in the United State, investigating engineering applications that relate to water flow, gas flow, and hydropower.  They then built their own wind turbines, investigating optimal blade shape for energy production.  Other presentations included demonstrates on how river flow is measured and recorded by a USGS hydrologist and National Weather Service presentation on how weather data used in prediction is collected and used in regional weather models.  Activities included learning how to decipher topographic maps and construct maps of their own and how these data sources can be used for classroom investigation.  The course included behind the scenes tours of AbbVie Pharmaceuticals and Polar Beverages where they explored how scientists and engineers apply scientific principals, technology and engineering design concepts to create products we use every day.  They then returned to the classroom to build turbines and test their own engineering design skills.  Minds On, Hands On was coordinated by Catch the Science Bug.

To top off the summer’s offerings, MITS offered a new Hybrid professional development institute.  Designed to deliver the “best of both worlds,” two pilot courses, one in the Boston Region and one in the Southeastern Massachusetts Region, took place.  The courses combined theory-based experiences to teachers during the online component with a one week, hands-on, minds-on experience.  Teachers in both regions kicked off the course with online introductions to models of inquiry and then moved on to their face-to-face experiences.

In the Boston Region institute, Science Solutions: Using Design Education to Investigate Animal and Human Needs, participants engaged in activities which explored the connections between engineering design and the natural world.  Teachers engaged in exploration of multiple water flow devices, constructed models of water delivery systems and role-played in a debate using scientific evidence to argue for public actions regarding Boston’s water supply.  They explored the geometry of insect hive design and had the opportunity to get up close and personal with active beehives.  Other activities included observing architectural design of Boston’s Greenway and then applying their knowledge of green/sustainable building systems to create a conceptual design for a new space for the Boston waterfront.  The course guided the teachers to bring together science practices and literacy concepts  to develop inquiry-investigations for their students. Zoo New England, Learning By Design and the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum partnered to teach this institute.

During Investigating Interdisciplinary Pathways through Engineering Design and the Natural World in the Southeast region of the state, teachers explored how connections between the natural world, engineering design and human needs could be used to develop interdisciplinary STEM investigations for their students.  Teachers investigated marine animal adaptations to the ocean environment as they pulled seine and dip nets through the estuary.  They explored marine mammal animal adaptations as they put on blind-folds and tested their auditory senses using squirt guns and a variety of materials.  After investigating bird wings, they applied their new knowledge about wing design and airflow to a design challenge investigation – they had to create their own structures which could stay airborne.  In teams, the teacher worked throughout the week to use the engineering design process to develop a “new product” based on biomimicry, culminating in final presentations at the MITS “Shark Tank” event.   They finished the week with a tool box of STEM lessons and investigations to take back to their classrooms.  The course was taught by the Lloyd Center for the Environment, Buttonwood Park Zoo, the National Marine Life Center and Mass Audubon’s Stony Brook and Oak Knolls Wildlife Sanctuaries.