CoreModels Western Region Report  

Western Region Description

The Western Region encompasses four counties: Frederick, Washington, Allegheny and Garrett. These counties represent the mountainous part of the state and span an east-west distance of 160 miles. Due to a difference in the geology of the area from the eastern most end to the westernmost end, the region often sees a great variation in weather patterns (i.e. the same snowstorm will dump 2 ft of snow in the western end of this region and 2 inches in the eastern end).

The region also represents a range of economic levels. The western counties traditionally have drawn their income from coal-mining and agriculture while the eastern end has been primarily agriculture. The proximity of the eastern most county to the metropolitan areas (Baltimore and Washington ,DC) has resulted in the shift from agriculture to the service industries and a rise in commuting workers. The westernmost county is much closer to Pittsburgh, PA and Wheeling, WV than it is to any major cities within the state of Maryland.

The four counties do share an environmental interest in that all border on the Potomac River which is a major feeder to the Chesapeake Bay. The western three counties have a tradition of organizing joint conferences under the RESA program. These three counties often share major news outlets (newspapers, radio stations and TV stations) with counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and there are many Maryland teachers in these counties who choose to live in one of these other states.

Schools of the Western Region Center

  • Washington County
    • Williamsport High School
      • Center Director - Physics, Chemistry
      • Participating Teacher - Chemistry, Earth Space, Biology
    • Clear Spring High School
      • Supporting Teacher - Biology
    • Boonsboro High School
      • 2 Participating Teachers - Biology, Chemistry, Physics
    • Smithsburg High School
      • 2 Participating Teachers - Biology, Physics, Earth Space

  • Allegany County
    • Allegany High School
      • Supporting Teacher - Biology, Earth Space, Chemistry

  • Frederick County
    • Middletown High School
      • Participating Teacher - Physics
    • Governor Thomas Johnson High School
      • 2 Participating Teachers - Chemistry, Physics

Summer Workshop

The 1998 Western Region Summer Workshop was held from Jul 27 - Aug 7 at Williamsport High School. During the first week of the workshop, the Western Region teachers were introduced to the available model activities and given time to work through the materials and discuss how these materials could be integrated in their classrooms. The Biology teachers examined 9 models and materials packets, while the Physics teachers examined 15 models contained in 9 materials packets. The group worked on the Flow model together and developed an improved mathematical fit to the data and a model which better fit this data.

During the second week, individual teachers presented models and materials to selected Williamsport students who also attended the workshop. Teachers also worked in groups to reexamine models presented during the first week, to suggest and develop modifications to the models or the materials and to explore models which would be of interest to their students. In particular, participating teacher Franco Posa recognized the link between the second order differential equation of Newton's second law and the equation for an LRC circuit and subsequently developed materials which would illustrate this to students. Participating teacher Von Mosser developed several models which show practical applications of the Free Fall model and of Projectile Motion. Paul Stewart, a participation teacher from Boonsboro High School, worked with Central District Center Director Susan Ragan on modifications to the Blood Glucose model.

During the first week of the project and the "free" time between "lessons" for the second week, the Williamsport High School students developed Web pages for the Williamsport Internet server and finished work on the School Handbook web pages for the Williamsport internal server.

Regional Workshops

Two after school workshops were held for the Western Region teachers. During the first workshop, held December 1 at Williamsport High School, teachers reported on their progress presenting models, classroom successes and helped the Center Director plan for the upcoming summer workshop. In addition, they were introduced to the model database so that they could enter data if necessary.

A second regional workshop was held after school in March. During this session teachers examined some materials which had been modified or developed by other project teachers. They also looked at new models which teachers were trying to develop. In addition, Project Director Mary Ellen Verona was in attendance and asked the teachers about their thoughts on the direction which the project might take for improved success.

Modeling Implementation

  • Center Director - First semester physics classes at Williamsport High School worked through all the physics materials as presented in the summer workshop. During the second semester, the Center Director is testing revisions of the materials on a new set of physics students. The AP Chemistry class is using some models which will be the basis of presentations at the new summer workshop and AP Physics students have examined one or two models.

  • Supporting Teachers - The two supporting teachers have implemented 6 models each (Enzyme, Deer Population, Carbon Cycle, Cell Size, Stream and Diffusion) in their Biology classes. Students exposed to these models have ranged from applied science to Advanced Placement classes.

  • Participating teachers - As anticipated most of the physics Participating Teachers were using CoreModels activities in their classrooms quickly. Many of them had presented as many as four models to their classes by the Thanksgiving break. The biology teachers, in general, had presented at least two models to their classes by Christmas break. Several teachers developed their own models to present. In addition, we had two teachers who did not have biology or physics classes but were able to present some of the models in chemistry or earth space classes or to use other models available for those classes (Nuclear Decay and Rock Cycle models).

  • Other Teachers - Two teachers within the Center Director's school have also implemented several models. One of these teachers is doing so at the encouragement of a participating teacher.

Peer Support

The Center Director was able to visit 4 out of the 8 participating teachers when they first presented a model and to visit 2 more for the second presentation. Visits were quite frequent in September and early October and again in February (new semester in several schools). E-mail contact has been regular between most of the teachers and the Center Director.

Strengths, Problems, Possibilities

Distance: Despite the large distances within the district, the schools within the project are actually quite close. With the exception of Allegany High School, the remaining schools are within 30 miles of the Center Director's school. This has made it easy for the Center director to reach schools. The Supporting Teacher at Allegany has to travel some distance to visit participating teachers. These short distances were one reason that regional workshops were held after school. The fact that the district is some 75 miles from Montgomery Blair High, where statewide meetings are held, has resulted in the teachers traveling together to those meetings and thus further strengthened ties.

Notification: The biggest block to visits has been lack of notification. Some problems due to weather, schedule changes and synchronization of schedules was anticipated. However, even when none of these factors are present, teachers sometimes fail to notify the CD or ST that an activity will be presented on a certain day. Perhaps this is due to the fact that teachers are use to working in isolation or perhaps that teachers felt comfortable enough with the activities that they didn't "need help" and misunderstood that we would like to be present anyway. In addition, these teachers are not reporting all the models they use, thus the model database does not accurately reflect all the activity going on.

Computers: For some schools, lack of a computer lab or lack of cooperation on the part of a technician has delayed implementation of models. Schools that were slow to start but now have software loaded or have acquired several new machines are showing a marked increase in use of models (at least verbally they report this, again it is not making it into the model use database). Internet access at some schools is spotty and this may be one of the reasons use is not reported. At least one teacher does not have reliable access to e-mail.

Competing Summer Activities: With the number of reforms and the advent of new state tests for high school students, there are numerous summer workshops available for teachers. Teachers are not usually willing to enroll in multiple summer workshops, preferring to preserve some free time and sometimes county based workshops take precedence because they are more obviously directed at the classroom.

County Support/Interest: The science supervisor of Washington County has been very supportive of the program from the beginning as have others within the local system. She has arranged for transportation to state meetings, suggested alternate pathways for advertising workshops and generally lent assistance whenever asked. The science supervisor from Frederick County is interested in promoting STELLA and systems dynamics activities within his county as well and has initiated a dialog through one of the participating teachers about possible workshop times and topics.

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