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Teaching the Teachers: Science Center Launches FirstHand Institute for Educators

For years, the FirstHand program has brought Philadelphia schoolchildren to the University City Science Center, aiming to spark interest in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Now FirstHand is adding a professional development program targeting middle school teachers to further boost STEM learning.

The goal of the pilot FirstHand Institute for Educators is to integrate the classroom with the 21st century science- and technology-oriented workplace. For three days (August 16-18) about 14 teachers from Philadelphia School District middle schools will meet with Science Center scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs, taking what Danielle Stollak, FirstHand program manager, calls a "deep dive into careers here." The participants will visit working labs at the Science Center’s Port Business Incubator and, working in teams at the FirstHand Lab, develop projects for their students that can inculcate the real-world skills that employers are looking for.

Those skills are not all technical -- the focus will be on what educators call the "Four Cs": critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

"Technical skills are teachable," says FirstHand Director David Clayton. "These are experiential."

The expectation is that the teacher teams will implement their projects in classrooms this fall as part of ongoing engagement with FirstHand, bringing their students to the Science Center and reconvening in January. A further benefit, adds Stollak, is the multiplier effect of training teachers, who not only reach many students, but can also become "brand ambassadors" and mentors for other educators.

This year’s pilot program, supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation, offers participants continuing education credits and a modest stipend. Teachers who are interested should email Stollak.

Meanwhile, FirstHand continues to challenge young minds with Taste Test, a new summer program that is introducing 15 youth from Sunrise of Philadelphia to molecular gastronomy and culinary innovations through active experimentation.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Director, Marketing