FIU, M-DCPS launch biology modeling workshop for local teachers

FIU recently hosted high school teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) for a training workshop on biology modeling instruction.

This is the first time FIU implements modeling instruction training in biology, having trained local teachers on physics and chemistry modeling instruction for the past 10 years.

Local teachers from Miami Dade County Public Schools participate in a biology modeling instruction workshop hosted at FIU.

Local teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools participate in a biology modeling instruction workshop hosted at FIU.

“This has been a project two years in the making. We’ve had great success in physics modeling and launched chemistry modeling last year,” said Laird Kramer, founding director of the STEM Transformation Institute and physics professor. “Our motivation was to pilot biology modeling to build momentum for a long-term commitment to modeling in the sciences in partnership with M-DCPS.”

More than 20 teachers from M-DCPS attended the week-long workshop, where they developed models of plant cells using a series of experiments with waterweed plants and potatoes. Not only did the teachers learn how to implement modeling instruction, but the experience also served as an opportunity for professional development.

“I’ve always used a combination of lectures, PowerPoint Presentations and hands-on learning activities to teach my students,” said Maria Martin, 10th grade biology teacher at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School. “I’m just blown away by what I’ve learned in this workshop. Now I find I need to less lecturing and more hands-on activities and student-led discussions.”

Modeling instruction was developed in the early 1990s by physicists at Arizona State University. It is an evidence-based curriculum that engages students as practicing scientists where they develop and deploy a model around a given subject. In that process, they learn to effectively communicate ideas, work within groups, solve problems, use representational tools for doing science, and participate in a science community.

“This launch of biology modeling instruction is a great example of the ongoing partnership between M-DCPS and FIU,” said Cristian Carranza, executive director of mathematics and science. “We are aligning our intellectual capital for the benefit of student achievement. By investing the time, effort and love into our students, we hope to turn local kids into local professionals that make Miami a better place.”

The workshop was funded by M-DCPS and the National Science Foundation.

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