3M, Science Museum create center for teachers

  • Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2007 - 10:20 PM

On Wednesday the doors open at the Science House, a teachers' resource designed to help foster a sense of wonder about science.

Two Minnesota science powerhouses have joined forces to create a rare learning hub for science teachers from across the state.

Dubbed "Science House," the hub was designed to serve as a one-stop resource center for K-12 science teachers and to enrich the quality of science education in classrooms statewide. The program is funded mainly by 3M and is housed at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

The center's official launch on Wednesday comes as Minnesota schools are grappling with new science education standards that require students to take more science courses to graduate from high school.

Seventeen school districts have been invited to participate in the program's pilot year. The center is in a small building behind the museum in St. Paul and houses a vast collection of equipment, artifacts and models that teachers may check out. The quality and quantity of the collection is better than what most schools can afford, museum and school officials say.

The center also has a team of development specialists who have taught science at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels. Scientists from the museum also will be available occasionally to put on workshops at the center.

The idea, explained Liesl Chatman, a former science teacher and director of professional development for the museum's education department, is to have a place where science teachers can get materials and get recharged about work.

"It's more than just a place to get materials," she said. "It helps you connect with other teachers and reduces your isolation."

On Wednesday afternoon, the Science House will officially open its doors to a select group of supporters at a special kickoff celebration.

The program is funded primarily through a $1.5 million grant from 3M. A portion of state funding approved last year in the K-12 education bill also helped establish the center, Science Museum officials say.

Getting more kids turned on to math and science careers is a key goal for 3M, said Alex Cirillo, vice president of community affairs for 3M. Most professional scientists have one thing in common, he said: They experienced something that made them believe it was possible for them to pursue a science career.

Establishing a place for teachers to get the tools and enrichment they need can help expose more students to the wonders of science, Cirillo said. "There is no one-stop shop for teachers, at this point, to get resources that are unique. The Science Museum has some things that are very unique. This allows teachers to have a one-stop shop."

Next year, more school districts will be invited to participate and, eventually, Science House will become available to all school districts for a membership fee. There's no fee this year, but Chatman said the plan is to charge an annual fee in exchange for unlimited access to the Science House collection and programs.

Fees have not yet been determined, but they will be calculated on a sliding scale, depending on how large a school district is and how far away it is, she said. She estimated fees would range from $5,000 for a small school district to $15,000 to $20,000 for the largest.

Cirillo said 3M will continue investing in the center for one more year, and he expects the program will become self-sustaining in a couple of years.

Allie Shah • 651-298-1550

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