BOURNE, G.B.*; RUSSELL, A.P.; BARCLAY, R.M.R.; YEUNG, E.C.; Univ. of Calgary; Univ. of Calgary; Univ. of Calgary; Univ. of Calgary: Undergraduate Scientists as Content Specialists in the Grades1-6 Classroom

In 1996, the Province of Alberta introduced a new science curriculum for grades one to six. Since few grades 1-6 teachers are trained science majors, there was significant disquiet in their ranks and they reached out for help. In early 1997, the Science Hotline of Calgary Science Network approached the Head of the Department of Biological Sciences, Tony Russell, hoping to find volunteers who would help local teachers implement the new science curriculum. Rather than find volunteers, Russell invited Robert Barclay and George Bourne to help him design and implement an undergraduate course – Biology Curriculum Enhancement. In the course, undergraduate scientists explore their conceptual, integrative and interactive skills while helping to enrich teachers’ appreciation of science and enhance elementary school students’ early experiences with science. The primary role in the classroom of the undergraduate scientist is one of content specialist who provides the scientific context of General and Specific Learner Expectations (GLEs & SLEs) of the science curriculum for a teacher/team of teachers at designated schools. The undergraduate scientist develops conceptually based modules that meet these SLEs often in the form of kits that are retained by the school. Students apply for positions in the course in a fashion similar to a job application. We show that through a curriculum enhancement course, undergraduate scientists effectively increase scientific expertise in the grades 1-6 classroom. As content specialists, undergraduates learn that they are apprentice scientists who serve as role models in the classroom. The course measures up well against several of the recommendations found in the Boyer Commission report; most importantly, it serves as a capstone experience.