February 10, 2010
10-026

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Grant Funds Science Teacher Education

VALDOSTA -- Dr. Leslie Jones, associate professor of biology, and Marge McCartney, a retired biology teacher, obtained a grant to send area science teachers to professional development opportunities throughout the region. As part of the grant's first initiative, six Valdosta educators are headed to the Annual Conference of the Georgia Science Teachers Association (GSTA) February 11-12 in Savannah, Ga.

The Georgia Teacher Quality Grant: Strengthening the Teaching of Evolution in South Georgia School has provided more than $80,000 during the last two years to fund workshops and field trips that address ways to present biological evolution effectively in the classroom. Jones said she hopes these professional development opportunities minimize the evolution/creationism controversy among teachers as well as students and parents.

"The point of our project is to emphasize the nature of science as a systematic study of the natural world. Science should not be seen as challenging God or scripture because it does not address anything in the spiritual world,” said Jones, who teaches science education. “We have seen teachers overcome deep personal reticence about evolution and develop the confidence to present this important biological theory to their students.”

Evolution is part of the new Georgia Performance Standards from elementary through high school. Jones said it is crucial that educators confront their misconceptions and encourage students to do the same.

Teachers who are attending the GSTA conference are: Tiffanie Williams, Esther Reece, & Jarinda Armour from JL Newbern Middle School; Jennifer Lukens from SL Mason Elementary; Lanita McDuffy of the Valdosta Early College Academy; and Anne Crim of Lowndes County High School.

“These teachers will attend as many sessions as possible at GSTA and bring back ideas for science lessons and activities to share with other teachers in their schools,” Jones said. “When they are not in sessions, they will join us at the colorful VSU exhibit booth that demonstrates inquiry-oriented strategies from summer workshops held at the Bailey Science Center in 2008 and 2009.”

The grant is also sponsoring three professional development field trips for teachers in the spring. On Friday, Feb. 19, teachers will participate in their first field trip to Gulf Specimen Marine Labs in Panacea, Fla., to discuss religion and science as well as ideas for inquiry-oriented lessons about evolution. E-mail McCartney at mccartneylak@bellsouth.net if you are interested in attending one of the professional development opportunities.