Teaching Science Outdoors (TSO) is a professional development program for elementary school teachers housed at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station. The goal of this project is to increase the ability of teachers to use the outdoors—whether in their schoolyard, neighborhood or community—as a component of doing strong science teaching aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
Teaching Science Outdoors is a professional development (PD) program for kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers interested in taking their students and science teaching outdoors. Located at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) in Southwest Michigan, teachers can enjoy the summer weather on its beautiful grounds while participating in this PD. Each session is one week long with activities planned for about seven hours each day. Teams of 2-3 educators per school/district are encouraged, as a lot of the work is collaborative. One goal of TSO is to help teachers incorporate the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which have been adopted by the state as the Michigan Science Standards (MSS), into their lesson plans. During the week, teachers develop or adapt a lesson to teach their students that includes an outdoor component.
Inquiry-based learning, or inquiry learning, removes the emphasis on teachers and places it on students. It is based on the idea that it is more beneficial for students to understand their everyday world by formulating questions, investigating to find answers, building new understandings, and communicating their findings with others, than to simply present them with facts and expect them to understand. Through this method, the role of the teacher is to guide students throughout the process and encourage them to come to an answer by themselves. Though this method could have a positive impact on science education, many teachers lack the pedagogical knowledge to implement inquiry-based learning in their own classrooms. This is where TSO comes in.
In summary, Teaching Science Outdoors will enable teachers to:
Experience outdoor inquiry learning
Use technology throughout the inquiry process
Experience team collaborative learning
Develop school-based learning units in line with NGSS