Mission & History
Our Mission & Vision
The mission of CRS is to connect and engage educators, students, and scientists in a vibrant and innovative web of science learning resources, transforming science education. Our vision is a community of educators and scientists working together to excite all children about learning through the scientific exploration of the world around them. Community Resources for Science contributes to this vision by weaving connections between the needs of individual teachers and educational resources, while acting as a catalyst to improve the available resources in our community.
Our goal is simple: help teachers give students more opportunities to “do science” – to ask questions, test ideas, get their hands on real science activities. We need to inspire the next generation of thinkers, makers, problem solvers, and leaders!
A Call to Action for Science Education
Science courses nearly extinct in elementary grades, study finds." -headline from San Francisco Chronicle, October 2007
The vast majority of teachers working in Bay Area public elementary schools indicate science activities effectively engage all types of learners, yet those teachers also say they lack the time and professional preparation for teaching science. In fact, a survey of 923 Bay Area elementary school teachers reported that about 80 percent said they spent less than an hour each week teaching science, including 16% of the total number who spent no time at all on science.
The overwhelming majority of scientists indicate their passion for science was sparked by learning experiences they had by age 11."
Yet, it is precisely in the early school years – when students are developing the learning habits and ideas about their own interests and abilities – when exposure to a vibrant and vast array of science experiences is critical to instilling a sense of confidence and affinity for science. Teachers who work with these students are often in their early years of teaching, with little preparation for leading hands-on, inquiry based science lessons. Fortunately, our community includes a wealth of science resources, from museums and informal education providers to world-leading science research institutions and companies.
The digital divide is augmenting the opportunity gap in science, as students from low income and minority communities often lack access to science enrichment outside of the school day. Ensuring these students experience science and develop scientific understanding in school is critical to ensuring they will be on a path to preparation for careers.
Science should be as nonnegotiable a part of basic education as are language arts and mathematics." - Taking Science to School, National Research Council, 2007
Local findings echo similar results from earlier reports calling for improved science education across the nation, particularly in under-resourced schools where teachers struggle with ways to incorporate science into classrooms for children who are the least likely to have science experiences outside of school. While fighting the widening achievement gap between high income and low income students, teachers are also overwhelmed by the demands of high-stakes testing, and need professional development support to realize the “profound learning effects that well-designed, high quality science instruction can have.” (National Research Council, 2007).
A Powerful Model for Engaging Teachers and Students in Science
In response to a growing need for science support, CRS was founded in 1997 by Nicki Norman and Anne Jennings as they learned about challenges classroom teachers were facing around science teaching. CRS programs and services have evolved over the years in response to teachers’ changing needs and through the guidance of ongoing evaluation and research projects. CRS has built a unique set of resources that demonstrably increase science teaching (and learning!) in East Bay classrooms. Our sustainable array of direct services promotes hands-on, interactive, inquiry-driven science and environmental learning experiences for students. These experiences engage all types of learners, providing opportunities for academic engagement and success that carry over into other content areas.
From the original service model, through our development of one of the largest scientist-volunteer in-school programs in the nation, CRS has integrated rigorous program evaluation into our practice. With individualized support, CRS offers a unique approach, allowing teachers to find the answers and help they need, when they need it. And, through workshops and Science Resource Field Trips for Teachers in partnership with local science organizations, we also provide opportunities for teachers to network and to share their science teaching success stories and strategies.
Key Principles for Success
Increasing teachers’ skills, knowledge, confidence, and access to information and resources will translate to improved teaching practices and ultimately improved learning outcomes for students.
Backed by the findings of leading research in the field of science education, including a 2009 study by experts from The Exploratorium and the Lawrence Hall of Science (Moving Forward A Statewide Vision of Nurturing and Sustaining Science Education K-8, Dennis Bartels, PhD, Rena Dorph, PhD), CRS works to increase the information and resources available to support teacher professional development and provide customized responses to individual teachers’ needs.
Giving kids a chance to “do” science, provides anchor points for reinforcing literacy and math skills, as well as the academic skills of critical thinking and persistence, that are essential for middle school readiness and success.
Research points to importance of science activities – hands on, inquiry based, connected to ‘real world experiences’ as key to engaging all types of learners. A CAISE Research Report of March 2010 highlights the importance of science experiences, particularly for addressing the needs of students who are not engaged in traditional textbook-based classroom instruction. By providing these students with positive learning experiences, they become more engaged.
CRS draws evidence of the impact of our work primarily from teacher and volunteer observations. Teachers report that students who are otherwise not succeeding, become transformed when the science visitors present a hands on lesson. Teachers “see” a new way to engage this student, and actively work to include more science activities and content as a way to continue a particular student’s progress. Volunteers report time and again that teachers stop them after their lesson in the hallway to comment that they had never seen a particular student so engaged, and that this experience has given them new ideas for how to reach this student.
The attention to science education is starting to pay off! Test scores in the districts we serve have been rising. FOSS kits, which are the adopted elementary science curriculum in OUSD and BUSD schools, provide teachers with a solid, consistent starting point. And, districts are adopting required minutes of teaching time spent on science. CRS member teachers tell us that CRS support helped them to add science experiences for their students, and year end-surveys indicate these teachers are increasing the amount of teaching time they devote to science.