The University of Florida aims to bring a scientist to every Florida school

The University of Florida aims to bring a scientist to every Florida school The University of Florida aims to bring a scientist to every Florida school

July 18, 20223 min read
Featuring:

By Emma Richards


It was the encouraging support of his 10th grade earth science teacher that led Bruce MacFadden to pursue his dream of becoming a scientist.


Now an accomplished paleontologist, MacFadden is paying it forward as director of the UF Thompson Earth Systems Institute and its “Scientist in Every Florida School” program. The program connects more than 700 scientists to K-12 classrooms in 42 counties throughout the state, providing students and teachers alike with up-to-date science lessons that both inform and, hopefully, inspire future scientists.


Teachers use the program’s online application portal to request a visit by a scientist to teach a specific concept. Teachers are then matched with a scientist with that expertise, who delivers the requested lesson in person or virtually. Participating scientists are vetted to ensure they can communicate clearly with audiences of varying education levels.


The program benefits students, teachers and scientists, MacFadden said. Students get to see the amazing things scientists do. Teachers receive timely knowledge and professional development. And scientists get to give back to society and gain confidence in their ability to share research, even with the youngest students.


“We want to let young people know that if they want to be a scientist and apply themselves, they can also be a scientist,” MacFadden said.


“It’s a synergy between the scientists and the teacher,” he said in an interview on the From Florida podcast. “We do not have prescribed, off-the-shelf lesson plans, but instead we typically talk with the teacher and say, ‘What would you like to do?’”


It is the only program that currently works throughout the state to deliver high-quality STEM instruction to teachers and students, particularly in public Title 1 schools.


“We want to make sure that there’s a level playing field with the understanding and teaching about STEM in a larger context,” he said. “But for me, it’s more about earth system science so that all teachers and students can benefit from what we know about current research in this field.”


Outreach conducted through the Thompson Earth Systems Institute focuses on those systems — the interaction of air, water, land and life, and human impacts.


Another important aspect of the “Scientist in Every Florida School” program is showcasing what a 21-st century career in science can look like for people from a variety of different backgrounds and interests. MacFadden said graduate students serve as role models in their visits to schools.


“We want to let young people know that if they want to be a scientist and apply themselves, they can also be a scientist,” MacFadden said.


The program aims to get a scientist into every public school in Florida at least once. With more than 4,000 public schools in the state, the scientists have a lot of stops to make — though virtual visits have helped them reach distantly located schools. MacFadden said once the team accomplishes that feat, they’ll focus on expanding outreach to other states.


“Right now, I’m totally focused on making a difference in Florida’s public education,” he said.


To learn more about the Scientist in Every Florida School program, listen to the full episode on From Florida at this link. Listen to other episodes of the From Florida podcast here. To learn more about the Thompson Earth Systems Institute, visit this link.






Connect with:
  • Bruce MacFadden
    Bruce MacFadden Director and Distinguished Professor

    Bruce MacFadden is a distinguished professor and paleontologist at the Florida Museum.

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