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2016 Annual Report

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Terra Tarango –

Terra Tarango – Revolutionizing Science Education with Four Simple Words Van Andel Education Institute’s (VAEI) director and chief education officer is focused on four simple words— curiosity, creativity and critical thinking. By using these words as guidelines, Terra Tarango hopes to increase the reach of the Institute’s inquiry-based methods that promote discussions, creative problem-solving and collaborative student engagement. “I think if we stay focused on what makes VAEI’s inquirybased instruction unique, we will have a national impact,” Tarango said. “And to be honest, I have never felt more able to make a difference than I do here.” Tarango’s lifelong love of learning began by listening to her mother, a special education teacher in San Marcos, Texas. “My mother was a teacher, so I got an early look at what teaching is like, and I always wanted to be a teacher,” Tarango said. “When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, and in college, I wanted to be a professor. My mother inspired me to work in the education field more than anything I found in a textbook.” This passion for learning led Tarango to pursue a career that spans education, writing, curriculum development and publishing, and she considers her past experience as the perfect foundation for taking VAEI to a new, exciting and uncharted space. Student focused and student driven A common sight in many classrooms is a teacher lecturing to a group of students. Through VAEI’s methods, programs and tools, Tarango wants to help teachers create an environment where students drive the discussion and facilitate their own path for discovery. TERRA TARANGO “I have never felt more able to make a difference than I do here.” Terra Tarango “We want to encourage classrooms where students are leading discussions, designing experiments, are actively engaged and the teacher is more of a guide for the process of discovery,” Tarango said. “I have always been a fierce teacher advocate, and what I am hearing from educators is that they want to empower their students to think critically, work independently and be creative problem-solvers.” No longer satisfied with the status quo, educators who attend VAEI’s teacher professional development workshops have made it clear that in order to meet the Next Generation Science Standards, new tools and new methods are needed. VAEI’s holistic approach to supporting these teachers includes teacher professional development, on-site student programs in Grand Rapids, as well as online science education tools, such as NexGen Inquiry ® . “A decade ago, teachers weren’t as interested in new ways of teaching, but that’s not the case now,” Tarango said. “When we ask teachers what defines an exemplary classroom, they say a place where students are learning through questioning, collaboration and challenging themselves. They know what the classroom should look like, and they want to make it happen.” Looking ahead Tarango is confident that VAEI’s methods, programs and tools are exactly what science educators are looking for to prepare today’s students as the next generation of innovative problem-solvers. Looking ahead, VAEI will continue to reach teachers and students across the United States—empowering them to embrace innovative ways to learn science and setting the stage for a lifelong love of discovery. “In the years to come, I have no doubt that VAEI will play a driving role in how we teach science education in this country and beyond,” Tarango said. “I love looking into a classroom and seeing the students passionately engaged in doing science and enthusiastically working as hard as the teacher. If that can happen more often, we can truly revolutionize science education. And until it is happening nationally on a regular basis, we have a job to do.” 24 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2016

Students Performing Real Science – Van Andel Education Institute’s Impact in the Classroom EDUCATION Tim Renz has worked as a science teacher in Washington state for more than 25 years. He’s taught everything from grade school to high school honors classes. Always on the lookout for new and innovative teaching methods, in 2013 Renz began using Van Andel Education Institute’s (VAEI) inquiry-based Community of Practice methods, QPOE 2 ® model and web-based online tools in his classroom. The results have been nothing less than extraordinary. “The support and professional development I received from VAEI gave me what I needed to have the most significant, transformative impact on my classroom in my entire career.” Tim Renz “A lot of other programs say they are about doing inquirybased, student-centered learning in science education, but it wasn’t until I came across VAEI’s models and techniques that I found a model that actually works in the classroom and reflects what 'real' scientists do on a daily basis,” Renz said. “The support and professional development I received from VAEI gave me what I needed to have the most significant, transformative impact on my classroom in my entire career.” The Institute’s QPOE 2 model emphasizes the scientific method of asking a question, making a prediction, collecting data through observation, developing an explanation and ongoing evaluation to refine and improve the process. In addition to the QPOE 2 materials, the Institute provides teachers with the online science education platform, NexGen Inquiry ® , as well as techniques that can be used to create a classroom that encourages inquiry-based learning. Doing real science After working with the Institute’s methods, Renz noticed that students were approaching their work differently. Students who had not been interested in science suddenly became focused and started developing creative experiments and working collaboratively. “A group of girls in one of my classes who hadn’t been very engaged in class designed an experiment to solve a problem that was affecting them in their daily lives—water bottles breaking when you store them in the freezer,” Renz said. “It was great to see the students develop experiments that studied the scientific properties of water and used the scientific method to problem-solve in such a creative way.” Through these new techniques, the students in Renz’s class started working in an independent, self-motivated, creative way—and in the process, they developed a love for scientific discovery. “When students feel empowered to ask their own questions, they become engaged in the process of learning and can use their knowledge to solve problems and find solutions,” Renz said. “It’s great to see so many of my 2016 by the numbers In the last year, VAEI worked with 800 students and more than 1,200 teachers in West Michigan. NexGen Inquiry ® Since its launch in 2015, 3,000 teachers have signed up to use NexGen Inquiry, the Institute’s online, inquiry-based students thinking critically, working collaboratively and doing real science.” VAEI’s student programs, teacher professional development and inquiry-based instruction tools help teachers like Renz transform their classrooms and create an environment where students have the freedom to think like scientists and develop a lifelong love of discovery. TIM RENZ WITH HIS STUDENTS. science education platform. The interactive resource serves as a digital science journal where teachers and students can conduct experiments, record and analyze data and share hypotheses. To date, more than 70,000 teacher assignments have been issued through this innovative platform. VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2016 | 25

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