The partnership between UCF PhysTEC and the surrounding school districts is an important one. Our physics teaching students benefit from visiting, observing, and conducting service learning activities in mentor teachers classrooms. Area teachers have contributed their expertise in helping guide course reforms at UCF, as well. In return, we are able to provide teacher professional development and support from our Teacher-in-Residence to help districts meet the needs of their teachers in the physical sciences. We also connect teachers and district staff to outside resources, such as Quarknet, CERN OpenData, and Florida AAPT.
Our students volunteer in local schools through the Physics department’s Outreach Committee giving presentations, helping with instructional activities, and tutoring. Some have also developed curriculum resources for local teachers, either as part of their coursework in a physics pedagogy class or as paid contractors writing computer science exercises aligned with science standards featured on CODINGinK12.org. As our students approach graduation, we help connect them with job placement and navigating the certification process. Local districts are then able to fill some of the most persistent staffing vacancies.
We helped revive the Quarknet center at FIT, which supports Brevard’s secondary physical science teachers by funding their self-organized professional development activities. In 2018, we also began providing in-service workshops on physics content, state standards, and reformed pedagogy.
Our physics teaching students have also had great experiences at University and Colonial high schools and Corner Lake middle school. In 2017, Orange county began planning a district-wide implementation of coding activities embedded in 6th grade science content, with our undergraduates assisting with the curriculum development. Filling STEM staffing vacancies is a major challenge for a district as large as Orange (9th in the U.S., as of 2018). To address that, they’ve coordinated a remarkable recruiting campaign, with visits of top-level leadership to UCF Physics, paid teaching internships for recent grads, and field trips to their magnet programs to entice current UCF students to consider a career in the classroom.
Since 2013 we’ve helped provide in-service professional development specific to Osceola’s physics and physical science teachers, as well as welcome them to UCF for professional gatherings and tours of our research facilities.
We’ve been lucky to have wonderful teachers at Tuskawilla middle school and Oviedo high school open their classrooms to our physics teaching students for observations, presentation, and service learning. A summer 2016 workshop at UCF on coding with data from CERN spurred Seminole middle school science teachers to explore integrating coding into their course curriculum, which has encouraged other districts, such as Orange, to do the same.
UCF PhysTEC was able to fund a two-day workshop in the summer of 2016, which served as a catalyst for Volusia’s physics teachers to revive their group, Physics on the Psi, the following school year. Within two years, the district experienced a 44% increase in physics course enrollment. Our Teacher-in-Residence has visited the district regularly to interact with and learn from their unique teacher-led PLC. Volusia teachers also lent their expertise, working with UCF students and faculty to help with course reform initiatives in the Physics department.