Making Science Local

Building team capacity with coaching and outside content experts

Laura Coscarelli
NCTAF Coach for STEM Learning Studios

When the Violetville Elementary/Middle School team from Baltimore Public Schools met in the summer for their initial STEM design sessions hosted by NCTAF, the team created curricular plans around nutrition concerns in their school community. However, when they reconvened at the beginning of the school year, only two of the original team members were able to continue with the project. This turnover presented some initial challenges for this new professional learning community (PLC).

With the help of regularly scheduled after-school meetings organized and facilitated by the NCTAF coach, the teacher team spent the Fall re-thinking the project. They also enlisted an external partner, a post-doctoral researcher from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Together they decided to use the original topic of childhood obesity, but wrestled with how to make strong connections to their existing curriculum:

While the team examined these overarching questions, they began to develop a relationship with the NIH post-doctoral researcher who was playing the role of an outside content expert (OCE). This content guidance along with the NCTAF coach’s development of structured meeting routines, helped this fledgling team make quick progress.