Assistant Professor of Education Maria Rivera piloted the Science in the City Professional Development Seminar (autumn 2005 semester). This seminar brings together in-service teachers from PS 75, a local New York City public school, pre-service teachers from the Barnard Education Program, and undergraduate science majors. The objectives of the seminar are to enhance science teaching and learning at PS 75 through teacher professional development; to prepare pre-service teachers in the Barnard Education Program to teach elementary school science; and to provide science majors with an introduction to science education and an opportunity to explore science teaching as a career.
Participants in this weekly seminar included undergraduate students and teachers from PS 75. Some seminar meetings are held at the American Museum of Natural History, facilitated by William Schiller, a botanist and museum educator. The theme of "urban forestry" is used to engage participants in inquiry-based investigation at the museum in the Hall of the New York State Environment and in the Hall of Biodiversity. Participants attend field trips to the Inwood Park Nature Center, Black Rock Forest, and Van Cortlandt Park to further investigate and develop their knowledge of urban forest ecology. The Van Cortlandt park field trip is led by Dr. Hilary Callahan, a plant evolutionary ecologist from Barnard's Department of Biological Sciences.
For the undergraduate participants, the core activities in the seminar include the completion of 20 practicum hours of classroom observations as well as planning and implementing science lessons in classrooms at PS 75. In addition, undergraduate students and PS 75 teachers collaborate to develop Science in the City unit plans aligned with the science curriculum at PS 75. The seminar has been well-received by the participants, a strong partnership with the museum was established, a more effective focus for the museum visits was developed, a new content theme of astronomy was planned, and the partnership has expanded to include another New York City public school.