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Conference celebrates conclusion of NURTURES science education program

The University of Toledo will recognize the conclusion of a successful science education program with a conference to showcase how local educators incorporated high-quality science inquiry into their curriculum.

The NURTURES program, which stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University enRich Early Childhood Science, was a five-year, $10 million program funded by the National Science Foundation to engage teachers and parents in supporting a young child’s natural curiosity through interactive science lessons.

The NURTURES conference will take place Saturday, Oct. 22, from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. It will feature presentations from local teachers and administrators who incorporated science inquiry and engineering in their classrooms and schools through the program.

Educators from Toledo Public Schools, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo and local charter schools will present topics that include:

• Overcoming common science misconceptions in the classroom;

• Developing discourse and critical thinking skills around science;

• Incorporating engineering design at the early childhood level;

• Integrating common core subjects with science; and

• Engaging with parents and community resources to promote science.

During the NURTURES program, 330 teachers of preschool through third grade and administrators participated in a total of 544 hours of professional development in the teaching of science inquiry and engineering design for early childhood classrooms.

Through NURTURES, teachers were exposed to high-quality science and engineering activities and worked to use them within their classrooms to increase student comprehension and academic achievement, said Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering. Data from standardized testing in Toledo Public Schools show an increase in reading, early literacy and math scores in students of teachers who have participated in NURTURES, she added.

“These findings are very significant and provide evidence that the teachers in Toledo Public Schools and area schools worked diligently to improve science teaching and learning,” Czerniak said.

Led by UT, the NURTURES program engaged a number of local partners for a community-based complementary learning model to support early learners. Those partners include Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Catholic Schools, Monroe County Schools, the former Apple Tree Nursery School, the East Toledo Family Center Day Care, UT Ritter Planetarium, Imagination Station, Toledo Zoo, Metroparks Toledo, Toledo Botanical Gardens, the former Lourdes University Nature Laboratory, Challenger Learning Center, YMCA, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and WGTE Public Media.