The Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science & Mathematics

Towson University Center for STEM Excellence

Baltimore Excellence in STEM Teaching (BEST) Project

News and Events

February March, 2014

The 2013-2014 BEST Project Cohort had its final Professional Learning Community meeting on March 8. Teachers explored the scientific and mathematical practices of constructing explanations and arguments based on evidence and engaged in an inquiry-based lesson on planning a scientific investigation. Four teachers shared how they had "upped the inquiry" in a recent classroom lesson and groups of teachers were given time to work on their final program project a module of lessons that translates aspects of the summer research and school-year learning community experiences into engaging, student-centered classroom activities. Program exit surveys were also administered.

three students   Pictionary approach to learn about the scientific practice of planning an investigation   teacher and student
Pictionary approach to learn about the scientific practice of planning an investigation


Adam Frederick and Vicki Mathew
Adam Frederick and Vicki Mathew at the SciTech Learning Lab

On March 6th, BEST Project funding supported a field trip to the TU Center for STEM Excellence (TUCSE) SciTech Learning Lab, providing hands-on biotechnology experiences for 17 high school science students from the Academy for College and Career Exploration (ACCE). These were students of BEST Project teacher Victoria Mathew who conducted her summer research project at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology under the mentorship of Adam Frederick. BEST also supported participant Hugh Jamison's attendance and presentation at the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association Conference in Orlando, FL.

Dr. Don Thomas continues to provide outreach to BEST Project schools and students. In February, Don gave presentations on living and working in space to 120 Severna Park Middle School students (BEST Project teacher Melissa Angerson) and in March he shared his story of perseverance with 30 6th graders at ACCE in Baltimore City.

December, 2013 January, 2014

The 2013-2014 BEST Project Cohort continues with its school year Learning Community meetings. On December 7th, the group met at the TU Center for STEM Excellence for sessions on various technologies can be used to enhance instruction and increase opportunities for inquiry in the classroom. Meeting highlights included an exploration on how to use mobile devices as data collection tools and how the Flipped instructional approach is being used in a local STEM classroom. Tony Ekatomatis, Montgomery County Public Schools, demonstrated how inexpensive materials could turn a smartphone into a working microscope or spectrophotometer. Mathew Doty, Baltimore County Public Schools, shared his experiences teaching mathematics in the "flipped" classroom, including some of the pros and cons of incorporating this pedagogical strategy.

On January 11th, the 2013 Cohort met for its fourth LC meeting. Teachers participated in a model STEM lesson a biomedical engineering design challenge called "Protect That Pill." Three BEST teachers presented details on how they had "upped the inquiry" in a recent lesson and teachers were given time to collaborate on their Classroom Implementation Project progress in transdisciplinary groups.

Designing a protective pill coating   Preparing to test the protective coating   Testing the protective coating
Designing a protective pill coating   Preparing to test the protective coating   Testing the protective coating


To date, BEST Project funding has been used to support

  • two field trips to BEST Project research sites (Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology and the National Institute on Drug Abuse) as well as
  • two SciTech Lab visits, providing hands-on science learning experiences for over 40 local middle school science students, and
  • two BEST teachers' participation in NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project Wind Energy Workshops.

October November, 2013

The 2013-2014 Cohort met for two Learning Community Meetings. These meetings provide time for BEST Teachers to share feedback on their Curriculum Implementation Projects and explore various ways to enhance their STEM instruction. On Saturday, October 12th, teachers learned about several formative assessment strategies and the difference between assessment for learning as compared to assessment of learning. The teachers also engaged in a pumpkin-themed open inquiry lesson and reflected on how this type of student-centered activity could be implemented with their own students.

On Saturday, November 9th, the BEST teachers analyzed a sample lesson using an inquiry-based instruction rubric. They then spent the afternoon investigating several activities that modeled integrated STEM instruction including building and testing devices that measure lung capacity and designing straw rockets and testing predictions about their flight patterns.

two teachers   Teacher and student   Teacher and student
Investigating how the mass of a pumpkin affects the number of seeds   Analyzing the relationship between pumpkin mass and stem circumference   Designing a device to measure lung capacity

Thanks to Dr. Don Thomas, Director of the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science, for his presentations at the schools of three BEST Project teachers. Dr. Thomas's presentations reached over 800 middle and high school students.

Rennie Watson and Sade Eukolana
BEST teacher Rennie Watson (on the right) co-presented a poster on her summer research project at the National Association of Biology Teachers Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on November 21. She and Sade Eukolana presented findings on the use of halophiles as biomarkers for road salt pollution. Sade is a graduate student in Dr. Shil DasSarma's Immnulogy and Microbiology Lab, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Third Annual Research Symposium

people enjoying the BEST Project Research Symposium
On Saturday, September 28, 2013 the third annual BEST Project Research Symposium was held at the TU Center for STEM Excellence, Columbus Center. After opening remarks by Dean David Vanko and Provost Timothy Chandler, current BEST Teachers presented posters on their summer research projects and shared ideas for translating research content, skills, and career awareness into real-world inquiry-based instruction for their students. Approximately 70 invited guests including research mentors, school system STEM supervisors, school administrators, and family members were able to join us for the Symposium. A big BEST thanks to our Noyce Scholars, Towson UTeach students, and Dr. Mary Stapleton for providing "hands-on minds-on" activities for our guests during the Symposium. BEST Teachers' research project summaries, including their personal and professional rewards from the internship experience, are available on our website.

2013-2014 Cohort

2013-2014 Best Teachers cohort
The 2013-2014 BEST Project Teachers
On Wednesday, July 10, 2013 the 2013-2014 BEST Project Teachers met at the TU Center for STEM Excellence for their mid-summer meeting and workshop. Morning activities included sharing research internship progress and reviewing school year Outreach requirements. BEST Teachers will use their summer experiences as the foundation for their Curriculum Implementation Plan, a module of lessons that translates content, skills, and career-awareness from their summer projects into engaging, real-world classroom activities for their students. Also during the morning session, Dr. Don Thomas, Director of the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science, gave an inspiring presentation on "Living and Working in Space." Dr. Thomas will be scheduling classroom presentations for the BEST teachers' students during the 2013-2014 school year.

During an extended lunch, teachers explored Pierce's Park and field-tested an environmental engineering activity developed by the Bioscience Education and Outreach staff. Following lunch, teachers engaged in an inquiry-based lesson on the Inquiry Continuum. A primary outcome of the BEST Project is for STEM teachers to increase the level of inquiry- and problem-based learning in their classrooms. At the end of the meeting, teachers were given time to work in small content-area groups to analyze a favorite lesson and discuss strategies for "upping the inquiry" within these activities.

Upcoming 2013-2014 BEST Project events include our Research Symposium on September 28, 2013 and our first school year Learning Community meeting on October 12, 2013.

Six of the BEST teachers are looking at a Microbioretention Facility in Pierce’s Park   A lab tecnintion and two best teachers
Exploring a Microbioretention Facility
in Pierce's Park
  Determining Which Substrate Combination Will Retain the Most Water

2012-2013 Cohort

BEST Project Research SymposiumThe 2012-2013 Cohort concluded on April 30. Teachers successfully completing all components of the program, including full participation in all Learning Community meetings, online discussion forums, and the completion of required Outreach activities (BEST Project Speaking Event, Collaborative Event and CIP (see below)) were awarded 5 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credits. In order to apply for recertification for the Maryland State Department of Education teaching certificate, teachers must earn 6 CPDs every 5 years.

As a culminating project, each BEST teacher has designed a curriculum module that translates aspects of their summer research experiences and knowledge gained from their school-year Learning Community meetings into engaging, real-world STEM lesson for their students. Completed Curriculum Implementation Projects (CIPs) for the 2012-2013 Cohort will be available on the BEST Project website by mid-July.

In addition to receiving high quality professional development that has positive impacts on STEM teaching and learning, BEST provided outreach to its 2012-2013 teachers and students by funding:

  • four field trips to BEST Project research sites (BEST teachers brought their students for a tour and/or hands-on activities),
  • four field trip to SciTech,
  • two teacher-mentor co-teaching activities,
  • one mentor-teacher pair attendance and co-presentation at the 2013 MAEOE conference
  • one teacher to attend and present a poster about her BEST Project research experience and application to classroom instruction at NABT and
  • approximately $16,000 in equipment and supplies for teachers to enhance STEM instruction in their classrooms.

Furthermore, a special thanks to Dr. Don Thomas for his presentations at several 2012-2013 BEST Project schools which reached approximately 2900 middle and high school students.

2013-2014 Cohort

Through a two-tiered application process, fifteen teachers representing eight Maryland public school districts were selected for the 2013-2014 BEST Project Cohort. Demographics for the 2013-2014 Cohort include:

  • One teacher from Anne Arundel County, two from Baltimore City, two from Baltimore County, one from Carroll County, one from Cecil County, four from Harford County, two from Montgomery County, and two from Prince George's County Public Schools.
  • Eleven science teachers, two mathematics teachers and two technology/engineering teachers.
  • Eleven high school teachers and four middle school teachers.

A list of the 2013-2014 teachers and their summer research placements is available on the BEST Project website. Dr. Barry Margulies and Dr. Vonnie Shields will represent FCSM as BEST Project Research mentors this summer. Each teacher will complete a 6-week summer RET, participating in a project that is relevant to the teacher's instructional context and that supports their PI's research agenda. During the 2013-2014 school year, teachers will use their summer research experiences as the foundation for authentic, inquiry-based, engaging classroom STEM lessons.

The third BEST Project Cohort commenced with an Orientation Meeting on Saturday, May 18th. Teachers participated in several "icebreaker" activities and reviewed program outcomes and expectations. Through engagement in an authentic research experience and explicit instruction during the 2013-2014 school year, the BEST Project aims to increase the level of inquiry and problem-solving in the classrooms of its teachers. A Placemat activity elicited the teachers' prior knowledge of "inquiry" and why problem-solving experiences are important for students. A hands-on-minds-on Wind Powered Vehicle challenge modeled inquiry-based instruction for the BEST teachers and asked them to reflect on how this type of activity has application to their classroom.

Designing and building the wind-powered vehicle A completed vehicle ready to race Racing the vehicle
Designing and building the
wind-powered vehicle
A completed vehicle
ready to race
Racing the vehicle

On July 10, teachers will convene at the TU Center for STEM Excellence for a mid-internship Learning Community Meeting to discuss research project progress as well as 2013-2014 school year expectations.




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