Grant Awarded to Science Education Program – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Grant Awarded to Science Education Program

The Finger Lakes Institute’s “GIT Ahead” project recently received an $8,050 grant from The Rochester Area Center for Excellence in Math and Science (RAC-CEMS). The award will fund the salary for a graduate student, as well as stipends to participating teachers. With the award, the RAC-EMS also made The Finger Lakes GIT Ahead Summer Institute: Using Geospatial Technologies to Teach Science and Explore Environmental Issues, a model professional development opportunity and an officially sponsored entity. GIT Ahead is a teacher professional development program directed by Jim MaKinster, associate professor of education, that provides opportunities for teachers from grades 6 through 12 to learn about using geographic information technologies (GIT) for teaching science. MaKinster explains that GIT Ahead “grew out of my interest in trying to combine technology and the exploration of environmental issues.” The ultimate goal of the program is to help secondary students see geospatial technologies as pathways to exciting and relevant careers. By incorporating technology into science classes, MaKinster strives to “give opportunities to kids to learn science in ways that are more interesting, exciting and engaging.” For teachers, the GIT Ahead Project offers an eight day, two session experience in which they learn the basics of geographic information systems, global positioning systems (GIS), and other geospatial technologies such as Google Earth and Google Maps. In addition to the two summer sessions, follow-up school-year workshops are held on Saturdays to continue aid and guidance for teachers throughout the year. Along with continued support, teachers also have the opportunity to receive course credit from Hobart and William Smith Colleges upon the completion of the project. MaKinster describes the teachers involved in year two as “highly motivated and committed.” In fact, 19 of the 20 teachers who participated in last summer’s project have remained active in Saturday workshops during the school year. The teachers have committed a combined total of 1,800 contact hours over the first nine months of the project’s second year. HWS graduate and current HWS Master of Arts in Teaching student, Clare Morgan ’06 is a newly awarded Knowles Science and Mathematics Teaching Fellowship winner and is developing a research project to study the student experience. Morgan will conduct her master’s research on the GIT Ahead project. Previously, GIT Ahead focused strictly on the development of teacher participation. Now, with a new focus, Morgan will explore the impact the program has on the students involved and write a formal thesis for her master’s program on her work with the GIT Ahead Project. GIT Ahead is a collaborative effort among the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Cornell University, the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology, Cayuga Community College, and New York State GIS Association.