One of the earliest successes of the MainePSP is the development of a Professional Learning Community among science teachers in the region. Since 2010, the MainePSP has provided a diverse range of opportunities for teachers to connect with their colleagues in a meaningful way. From curriculum selection task forces to Collaboratives to Summits, MainePSP teachers have come to know and rely on one another. Teachers have found that sharing common instructional resources and common experiences allows them to grow and to support one another in ways that were not possible previously, particularly through Cohort Meetings, the Summer Academy, Teachers in Residence and the online community.
The broader MainePSP Professional Learning Community is comprised of three distinct sub-communities: SEPUP (Grade 6-7 Earth Science Teachers), PBIS (Grade 7-8 Physical Science Teachers) and EarthComm (Grade 9 Earth and Physical Science Teachers). Within each of these communities, teachers share the same instructional materials and follow the same scope and sequence. Although the MainePSP creates ample opportunities for teachers to interact across grade levels, the common instructional materials shared within each of the three groups allow for focused professional development and a deeper level of collaboration than would be possible otherwise.
The SEPUP Cohort of Grade 6-7 Earth Science teachers are all implementing the Issues & Earth Science program developed by the Science Education for Public Understanding Project (SEPUP) of Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California Berkeley. The units used by MainePSP teachers are Studying Soils Scientifically, Rocks and Minerals, Erosion and Deposition, Plate Tectonics, Weather and Atmosphere, The Earth in Space, and Exploring Space. SEPUP teachers enjoy the guided inquiry approach to learning science and find that the issues embedded in SEPUP units, such as urban development and nuclear waste storage, motivate student learning. SEPUP teachers also appreciate the excellent teacher resources for the Issues & Earth Science program and the supports provided by SEPUP to scaffold student learning.
The PBIS Cohort of Grade 7-8 Physical Science teachers are all implementing modules from the Project-Based Inquiry Science program developed by researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan and Northwestern University, along with two units the Issues & Physical Science program developed by the Science Education for Public Understanding Project (SEPUP) of Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California Berkeley. The PBIS modules used by MainePSP teachers are Diving Into Science, Vehicles in Motion, and Energy, while the units from SEPUP are Studying Materials Scientifically and The Chemistry of Materials. Like SEPUP, PBIS uses guided inquiry approach to teaching science, but PBIS uses engineering design projects, such as building a bookstand or a propeller car, to engage student interest. PBIS teachers appreciate the opportunities provided by the instructional resources for students to engage in engineering and science practices through open-ended investigations and design activities.
The EarthComm Cohort of Grade 9 Earth and Physical Science teachers are all implementing modules based on the EarthComm: Project-Based Space and Earth System Science program developed by American Geological Society. The MainePSP Grade 9 sequence is focused on two overarching questions: “How and why is the Earth constantly changing?” and “How do humans change the Earth?” and uses sections from the EarthComm units on Earth Systems Evolution; Plate Tectonics; Winds, Oceans, Weather and Climate; Global Climate Change; and Astronomy. EarthComm also applies the guided inquiry approach to teaching science, using a diverse collection of investigations to introduce concepts in advance of direct instruction. The EarthComm cohort has created an alternative assessment task for each module, which are designed to make the learning goals meaningful to students.
While the MainePSP Summer Academy, Teachers in Residence program and Cohort Mini-Conferences (formerly called Cohort Meetings) focus primarily on opportunities for teachers to work together within their grade-level communities, teachers work across grade-levels and subject areas at Collaboratives, the Summit and the Leadership Academy.