This summer, the NevadaTeach program at the University of Nevada, Reno has partnered with Nevada Gold Mines to implement the second stage of their effort to contribute to the development of the next generation of the mining workforce. Master Teachers Megan Beckam and Mandi Collins, with funding from Nevada Gold, will be facilitating the professional learning opportunity that has been offered to rural Nevada secondary teachers in Elko, Lander, and Humboldt counties. The Nevada Gold PITS (Project-Based Inquiries for Teaching Science) professional development opportunity will support teachers in bringing project-based learning opportunities that are aligned with the Nevada Academic Content Standards (NVACS) in the Earth sciences to their classrooms.
The goal of Nevada Gold PITS is to enrich teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge so they can be resources and advocates for the mining industry. A participant from that experience shared on an anonymous feedback form that a “valuable part of the DIGS experience was being able to see the different communities (rural districts, UNR, mining industries) working together to create an open awareness of STEM by making the Earth science learning standards meaningful to the lives of our students.” Through the PITS program, Beckam and Collins will engage 6th-12th grade science teachers in professional learning on incorporating project-based lessons that are standards-based on the core ideas of mineral exploration, mining, natural hazards, human impact on Earth systems, and environmental sustainability and new technologies. The goal is to help young people understand the relevance of what they are learning to their communities and attract them into the mining industry and engineering fields in our state.
PITS targets teachers of 6th to 12th grade Earth science in Elko, Lander, and Humboldt counties. The participants will participate in a virtual book study during the Fall of 2021, with teachers reading and engaging in dialogue around “Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences” by Suzie Boss with John Larmer. The teachers will attend the NSTA conference, this year in Portland, Oregon, with their registration and airfare covered by the grant. PITS will include a virtual week-long workshop, which will include a panel discussion with mining professionals. The participants will then develop a three- to five-week project-based unit with an Earth science and mining theme. They will implement the unit during the 2021-2022 academic year and meet again remotely in May 2022 for a follow-up meeting to reflect on their experiences, celebrate their successes, and troubleshoot challenges they experienced.
The partnership began in 2017 with NevadaTeach and then-Newmont Mines providing professional development through the DIGS (Deepening Inquiry in Geological Science) opportunity. Participants were 4th and 5th grade teachers from Elko, Lander, and Humboldt counties. DIGS consisted of three one-day workshops (one each in September and October 2018 and April 2018) where the teachers received either a FOSS or Engineering is Elementary (EIE) kit for use in their classrooms. Collins adds that, “Fourth grade teachers received a FOSS Next Generation Soils, Rocks, and Landforms kit while 5th grade teachers got the EIE Evaluating a Landscape/Geotechnical Engineering kit.” Participants were given a stipend and paid registration and hotel accommodations in order to attend the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) regional conference in Reno on October 11-13, 2018.
Beckam and Collins hope these professional learning opportunities will enrich the teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge so they can be resources and advocates for the mining industry. “The DIGS program was successful,” Collins said, “because of its ability to increase the confidence in teachers to incorporate the Earth science units in their instruction. Science can be messy for teachers, as it is often presented with lots of materials and management. The kits are a huge support to the teachers as they provide standards-based curriculum that is full of hands-on opportunities for learning. The professional learning helped teachers navigate the curriculum and materials to best implement them in their own classrooms.”