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NEWS | April 22, 2014

NRL-SSC Helps Science Scores Soar

By Donna McKinney

Hancock County School District (HCSD) was an early partner in NRL-SSC's STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) outreach efforts beginning in 2009. The rural school district serves approximately 4,400 pre-K-12 students.

It was clear at the initial meeting between HCSD Superintendent Mr. Alan Dedeaux and NRL STEM coordinators, this district saw the value in community support. Mr. Dedeaux and his administration stressed their desire to move their science curriculum from traditional lecture-based teaching to inquiry-based learning. They were eager to begin a Navy partnership that supported that goal.

Since 2010, NRL-SSC has provided inquiry-based science kits for the district, teacher training on how to implement the kits, science and engineering (S&E) classroom speakers and mentors, and excess lab supplies to help in their endeavor—an investment that has paid off. According to Ms. Kim Saucier, HCSD Science Curriculum Coordinator,

"Since the implementation of our inquiry-based science program in the 2010-2011 school year, Hancock County School District has shown steady increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced on the state and federally mandated MST2, the Mississippi Science Test.

As a result of this implementation, students are now doing science, not just learning about science. Consequently, they are understanding concepts and remembering what they have learned through experience, rather than memorizing facts and details.

In the past if you were to sneak a peek into one of our science classrooms, you would likely see students taking notes, reading from a textbook, listening to a lecture, or watching a teacher demonstration. Today, as you walk into our science classrooms you see students wearing child-sized safety goggles, conducting their own investigations, and recording their findings in their lab notebooks. Our students have become little scientists, and the teachers have become facilitators and lab assistants

Mr. Dedeaux has also seen positive changes in his faculty. The inquiry-based kits have also helped some of our elementary teachers increase their content knowledge and confidence in the areas of physics, chemistry, and other physical sciences, thus ensuring that our science curriculum is well balanced, said Dedeaux. There is a new excitement about science in our district that is evident in our teachers, students, parents, administrators, and the local community.

It's common knowledge that S&Es make decisions based on measurable, verifiable data. Seeing the uptick in HCSD's state science scores is encouraging to NRL STEM Coordinator Dr. Joe Calantoni, who is continuing to support professional development opportunities for HCSD teachers this school year.

As a district, we are very thankful for the generosity of the Naval Research Lab and other local sponsors who are directly responsible for providing the resources that have helped transform our students into little scientists, said Saucier. One day these little scientists will be big scientists and we will all benefit from their excitement and love of science.

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