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How museums, teacher educators, and schools, innovate and collaborate to learn and teach geosciences to everyone
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Natural History Museum. Teacher education program. Museum teaching and research.

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MACDONALD, M.; SILVERNAIL, D.; COOKE-NIEVES, N.; LOCKE, S.; FABRIS, A.; BIENE, N. V.; PASSOW, M. J. How museums, teacher educators, and schools, innovate and collaborate to learn and teach geosciences to everyone. Terrae Didatica, Campinas, SP, v. 14, n. 3, p. 271–276, 2018. DOI: 10.20396/td.v14i3.8653525. Disponível em: Acesso em: 23 set. 2023.


Natural History museums are well known and even famous for the multiple educational opportunities they offer to the public, which includes international visitors, and students and schools. This paper introduces a new role for museums, as sites for the education and certification of new science teachers. In 2017, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) completed evaluation of its initial six years as the first museum-based Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Earth science program in the USA. The program was conceptualized in response to multiple levels of local and national education policies, and the still cur-rent need to improve Earth science education for all students, especially those designated ‘at-risk.’ Race to the Top (RTTT) in New York State and the National Commission on Teaching for America’s Future had been call-ing for the reconceptualization of teacher education for several years. MAT began as a pilot program authorized by NYS, the result of a competition for inno-vation in the design of programs outside the traditional university structures that corre-sponded to areas of need (at the inter-section of the sciences and quality education for New English Learners and students with learning disabilities). In developing the museum-specific part of the program, theoretical perspectives from research on Strands of Learning Science in Informal In-stitutions, Spatial thinking, and Place-based Learning. Also the selection of candidates required background in one of the Earth Science fields. In addition, scientists and curators became part of the faculty and directed the field and laboratory residencies at the end of the school year and before beginning to teach in schools. After three years, the pilot was fully authorized to grant its own degrees. The institution operates on multiple levels: it is a teaching residency program that awards degrees, maintains strong partnerships with schools, is a member of the network of Independent Colleges and Universities in New York State, and provides on-site graduate courses for other col-leges and universities on the educational role of, and research on, informal learning in science institutions. The museum is at the heart of the program’s design. Courses include research on learning in museums, pedagogical content knowledge re-garding science, and experiential residencies geared toward preparing candidates to teach in both museums and public schools, as well as conduct independent and team science research. Courses are co-taught by scientists and educators, and are designed to use museum exhibitions and resources, including current and past scientific research, technology, and online teaching tools in order to facilitate instruction, demonstrate the nature of science, and com-plement science with cultural histories that highlight the role of science in society. Evaluation evidence indicates the program has been successful in pre-paring teachers to teach in high-needs urban schools in New York State. An external-impact quanti-tative study by NYU, focused on student performance on the standardized New York State Earth Science Regents Examination, indicated that (1) students of MAT graduates are doing as well as students taught by other Earth science teachers with similar years of experience in New York City; and (2) demographically, MAT teachers instruct a higher percentage of students with lower economic and academic profiles. This paper focuses on how the program design utilizes all aspects of a natural history museum to offer the science museum community, teacher educators, and policy-makers new approaches for the preparation of teachers and the education of their students.


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