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U.S. Naval Academy Workshops Help Enhance Education in U.S., International Schools

Posted on: July 18, 2014 08:00 EDT by MC2 Jonathan Correa

The U.S. Naval Academy recently hosted workshops for more than 115 educators from across the U.S. and international schools to help enhance their curricula in science, technology, engineering, math and languages.

In the month of July alone, the academy offered three separate programs for educators: the Set Sail program for STEM fields attended by 90 teachers, the Maury Project for oceanography and meteorology attended by 24 teachers, and in collaboration with Anne Arundel Community College the StarTalk program for education in Arabic attended by 8 teachers and 48 students.

“The number of experiences and training we offer to educators signifies USNA’s willingness to be a participant in the national effort to bolster important areas in education through sharing our excellent resources and talented faculty and staff,” said Naval Academy Vice Academic Dean Boyd Waite.

These workshops each equip teachers with training and teaching materials that can be used in their classrooms. Educators participate in lectures and tutorials, research cruises and field trips, and hands-on exercises in the Naval Academy’s world-class laboratories and classrooms.

As many schools have become more lecture-based, the Set Sail program is designed to encourage educators to return to more hands-on teaching methods.

“We teach the educators the same way we teach our midshipmen,” said Naval Academy chemistry Professor Sarah Durkin of the USNA STEM office. “We teach them laboratory-based teaching techniques.” 

This workshop gives teachers the opportunity to discover, explore and test ideas, and, most importantly, learn how science and technology impact real-world research and challenges. The teachers participate in projects using underwater robotics, forensic chemistry including the study of corrosion, and projects using the hydro lab, and bioterrorism labs, among others.

One of Set Sail’s design challenges was comprised of building a maze with limited resources including wood blocks and glue. Teachers used engineering design techniques and principles of levers to get marbles from one end of the maze to the finish end in order to complete the task. Teachers also participated in a bioterrorism lab simulating a smallpox breakout. Each teacher was given a container replicating smallpox but only one container is actually “affected” with the virus. Each teacher then had to share their sample with three other teachers, which demonstrated the spread of the disease.

The Maury program also focuses on experiences that give educators the opportunity to discover new ways in which science and technology impact real-world research and challenges.

This summer’s 21st annual Maury Project focuses on the physical foundations of oceanography and includes intensive training sessions comprised of lectures, tutorials, seminars, research cruises, hands-on laboratory exercises, and field trips. Seven laboratories located in the USNA Oceanography Department and a fully-equipped 108-foot oceanographic research vessel providing teachers with a multitude of hands-on training opportunities.

“The Maury Project promotes minority participation in science through teacher enhancement,” said Dr. David Smith, retired professor and former chairman of the Naval Academy oceanography department. “The goal is to train as many teachers as possible who are members of groups underrepresented in the sciences and/or teach significant numbers of pre-college students from underrepresented groups.”

Smith co-directed the Maury Project with Dr. Jim Brey, education director of the American Meteorological Society.

In addition to STEM related areas, the Naval Academy  also provides educators and students foreign language and cultural education.

The StarTalk program is a government initiative to increase the number of Americans learning critical need languages and teachers start with a ten-day online course followed by two weeks of face-to-face training and planning at the Naval Academy. Directly after this training, high school and college students arrive to the Naval Academy for a four-week novice and novice/mid-level Arabic course. This gives the teachers a chance to use their new teaching skills and enables them to improve their own teaching techniques.

The program at the Naval Academy focuses on Arabic and offers students and educators an elaborate cultural education through developing language and writing skills, as well as a deep cultural understanding through music, arts, and sports participation.

 “Some of the topics we offer at the Naval Academy are American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) standards, differentiated teaching, student-centered learning, brain-based learning, comprehensible input, relevance and student motivation, and small group learning,” said Clarissa Burt, Naval Academy professor of Arabic language, literature and culture.

These programs provide educators’ with tools they can use in their own classrooms and pass on to their peers to help further enhance the curricula offered in their home school districts.

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