ED 423D and 423E – Inquiry Science in Schools

(A 2 or 3 credit practicum experience)

 James F. Nagle jnagle2@smcvt.edu 802.654.2636
Karen Donovan kdonovan@smcvt.edu 802.654.2826
Tracy Truzansky at ECHO at ttruzansky@echovermont.org 802.864.1848 x120

Course Description

 Inquiry Science in Schools (ISS) is a partnership between ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Saint Michael’s College, and the Burlington School District. The intent of ISS is to deepen student understanding of observable environmental science concepts, provide opportunities to practice science inquiry skills, and to foster the value of environmental stewardship in our local community. The ISS program currently collaborates with Champlain Elementary School, Flynn Elementary School, and CP Smith Elementary School in Burlington, Vermont. Pre-service teachers from Saint Michael's College teach at ECHO in informal education settings with the general public, school field trips and with target audiences as well as in elementary classrooms participating in the ISS program.

Pre-Service Teacher Program Components and Expectations

Pre-service teachers take ISS as a 2 or 3 credit practicum experiences (80 – 120 hours). Students receive orientation and training at ECHO to teach in informal settings at the science center and to teach science lessons in elementary third (Classification) and fifth (Properties of Water) grade public school classrooms. All Saint Michael’s pre-service teachers in the ISS program will have expectations at ECHO and in their assigned classroom(s):

1.    Attend the ECHO ISS Orientation to familiarize yourself with the mission, facility, education philosophy and ISS program structure.  You will receive your classroom assignments - either 3rd AND/OR 5th grade in a participating school – and your field trip date (the whole grade from the same school attends the field trip on the same date).


2.     Attend training to learn how to teach two ECHO staff-prepared 1-hour science lessons that will provide the framework of the pre/post field trip experiences.  You will receive a bin of materials and a lesson plan to practice the lessons on your own time.

3.     Arrange for a brief meeting with your assigned teachers so that you can get acquainted, see the classroom space(s) you will be teaching in, and understand anything important about their students and school operations. You will provide them with observation forms and set the dates for teaching your science lessons (pre and post field trip) in their classrooms. You will make an agreement on the frequency, day(s) and best form of communication (phone, email, etc.) to provide efficient, clear contact.

4.     Meet the teacher and students in your assigned classroom(s) providing (a) an opportunity to introduce yourself to the students, (b) provide a simple overview of their involvement in the program, and (c) implement a simple science probe assessment activity to determine student knowledge about inquiry process skills and the topic that is to be taught.

5.      Deliver the pre- and post-field trip lessons prepared, appropriately dressed and with ample time for setting up your lessons.

6.     Receive two (2) classroom teacher feedback observations using the triplicate open format observation form provided by SMC.  These observations should be completed on the day of your teaching. Ask the teacher to keep the yellow copy, give ECHO your pink copy and retain the white copy for your records. If time, ask the teacher for 10 minutes for personal feedback or arrange for a follow up phone call for feedback.

7.     To the best of your ability, attend at least one field trip for the assigned grade from the assigned school and support ECHO in the delivery of programs as needed.

8.      Meet a final time with your classrooms to engage in a 30 minute brainstorming session to review content and consider ways to engage the public in what they have learned for presentation during ECHO Earth Weeks in April. This closure experience is developed by the teacher and students and fulfills the function of a performance assessment as they present to the public in April, 2010. (Note: Fall Semester students may choose to stay in contact with their students and help with the spring event if they choose, but it is not a requirement).


1.     Identify with ECHO’s Volunteer Coordinator a WEEKLY 4-hour volunteer shift (or two 2-hour shifts) at ECHO to practice leading on-floor informal science, experiences (demos, games, crafts and/or science experiments) to a wide range of audiences using inquiry process skills. This time at ECHO could also be used for additional training, shadowing time and, if the volume of visitation is low, planning time for your lessons.

2.    Create and deliver two 30-minute lesson plans and associated materials to enhance ECHO’s school field trip program and/or on-floor experiences for the general public.  ECHO covers the cost of all materials.

3.    Assist in the planning and delivery of one of ECHO’s environmental science events for a target audience (overnight camp-in, preschool program, Community Science Night, Lifelong Learning, Voices for the Lake, exhibit opening or theme weekend).

4.    Secure two observations of your teaching by ECHO staff from any of the above ECHO experiences.

Note: Several of these ECHO experiences can be combined to fulfill the informal teaching expectations of the practicum.


Practicum students are required to attend ECHO during their weekly shift(s), keep a weekly journal, prepare and teach four (4) lessons that are observed by classroom teachers and ECHO mentors, write a reflective paper about the practicum experience and participate mid semester and end of the semester evaluations. 

            ECHO Practicum Shift                                     25%     Weekly 4 hour shift
            Journals                                                         25%     Due weekly
            4 Lessons, 2 Lesson Plans, 1 ECHO Event       25%     Due on day of observations
and 4 Observations  
            Reflective Paper                                              20%     Due on last day of semester
             Program Evaluation                                        5%       Due Mid and end of semester


The purpose of journals is two-fold: 1) to develop a reflective dialogue between your classroom and ECHO experiences and your thinking about teaching science and 2) to create a record of your thoughts and development as a science teacher. It is your responsibility to make your journal relevant and meaningful.  Think of it as a place for you to work through certain aspects of your teaching rather than just an “assignment.”

            For each entry, please select, describe and reflect on one specific teaching episode that took place during the day (see Hole and McEntee, 2003).  The event may be selected because it provided you with a particularly powerful learning experience, because it was an example of something that challenged your beliefs about teaching, or because it sparked your curiosity about teaching. When writing an entry, first explain why you decided to write on this topic, describe the context and briefly describe the event.  Please provide enough detail so that the reader understands the situation, but your focus is on analysis and reflection.  Next, describe your thoughts and reactions to the event.  Consider especially your understanding of why the event occurred and how it affected the way you think about your teaching.  Again, the reader is looking for depth of thought and analysis here, not mere factual description.  Each journal is less than one single-spaced page. Please submit one (1) journal entry per week to Tracy Truzansky, Director of Education at ttruzansky@echovermont.org

Lesson Plans and Teaching Observations

During the course of the semester you will teach in the informal setting of the science center and in elementary school classrooms. You will be observed twice in the classroom and twice at ECHO for a total of four (4) observations. Coordination of which lesson, timing and location will be decided by you, your classroom teachers, and ECHO mentor. Attached is the lesson plan format for lessons you will develop for the informal setting at ECHO. You will receive feedback on the strengths and areas for improvement on planning/preparation, teaching, and reflecting on science teaching.

Reflective Paper

At the end of the semester you will write a reflective paper of 3-5 single-spaced pages that compares your science teaching experience at ECHO with the classroom teaching in the public schools. The paper should discuss your strengths and areas for improvement as a science teacher in both settings and discuss steps for you to improve your teaching practice. A reflection paper rubric is attached to assist you in understanding the writing expectations.

Program Evaluations

At the midpoint and again at the end of the semester, you will be asked to complete a survey about your experience during the practicum. You may also be asked to participate in a closure session about your experience. Your grade is based on your timeliness and completion of the surveys. Surveys help to improve the quality of student experience in future program semesters.

Required Reading

 Hole and McEntee (2003). At the heart of teaching: A guide to reflective practice.

ECHO will provide additional readings for science content, activity planning, science resources and an open invitation to attend ECHO’s Science Professional Development Workshops for Teachers.

Standards-Based Lesson Plan Format for ED423 at ECHO

Topic of the Lesson:

Grade Range:





Unit Essential Question:

Vermont Standards and/or GEs:

Learning Objectives:


Focusing Questions:



Resources or Materials: 




Closure and Connections:

Standards-Based Lesson Plan Explanations for ED 423

Topic of the Lesson:

Grade Range:

Time: Specify 30 – 60 minutes


Explain why this lesson is important for participants to learn and where it might fit in the scheme of a unit.


What are the primary learning objectives of the lesson that a teacher must prepare themselves to know?

DESIRED RESULTS                                      

Unit Essential Question: Write the question that elicits the enduring understandings of the unit.

Vermont Standards and/or GEs: This is the big idea that you are working toward. Consider only what you will teach and assess in this one lesson.

Content Objectives: State objectives in terms of what students will know and be able to do. Make sure that they are directly aligned with your standard/GE.

Learning and Behavior Objectives: List what students will do in the activity and the concepts that will be learned.  Measurable objectives are desirable.

Vocabulary:  List new vocabulary related to the topic in the lesson plan and how they will be introduced.

Focusing Questions: Your focusing questions will be related to your essential question but will focus specifically on the objectives. These are questions that you expect students to be able to answer at the end of the lesson.


If developing a lesson plan for an ECHO School Field Trip Program, describe a formative or summative assessment used in the lesson and explain how it will be introduced and used in the lesson. For ECHO Encounters, assessment is not crucial, though this can add an element of fun and satisfaction for visitors to prove they know something new!


Resource Materials: List the resources/materials you will need (e.g., technology, reading materials, lab equipment, etc.). Cite sources for your materials if they are not attached to the lesson plan.

Introduction: Explain how you will communicate your expectations and objectives for the lesson. Describe the process to start the lesson and explain how you will "hook" students to get them connected to the main idea of the lesson.

Instruction: Be as clear as you can about what will happen during the lesson. Describe the instructional strategies (what you will do) and the learning opportunities (what your students will do) incorporating approximate amounts of time into the lesson so that you can stay within the 30 – 60 minutes limits.  In explaining the activities include group configurations and attach copies of materials and handouts used. Describe the ways in which you differentiate instruction for specific learning needs.

Closure and Connections: Explain how students will communicate their understanding of the objectives for the lesson. Describe how the lesson summarizes student learning.