Future Teachers Perform Research Outside the Classroom
July 28, 2009
By Debra Cano Ramos
This summer, Cal State Fullerton teacher credential students Beverly Berekian and Bill Salling are working outside the classroom to better prepare for their future teaching careers.
With goals of teaching high school science, both are involved in research activities at Orange County science education centers.
They are among eight credential students — planning to be upper elementary, middle or high school science teachers — selected to participate in the university’s Promoting Resources in Informal Science Education internship program made possible through a grant from the Boeing Co., said Victoria B. Costa, director of the university’s science education program.
Boeing recently awarded the university $45,000 for the Southern California Science Education Collaboration and PRISE program.
SCSEC is a collaborative between community science centers and higher education institutions to benefit local high school students. It brings together the university, the California Partnership for Remote Instruments to Study the Structure of Matter, Discovery Science Center, Newport Back Bay Science Center, Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, Fullerton Arboretum, Ocean Institute and Santa Ana Zoo to improve science education in local schools.
Each PRISE student received a $1,000 to $2,000 grant to conduct and complete a science project, jointly determined by the credential student and the science agency, Costa said.
“Through the PRISE program, students get experience in designing ways to introduce science to general populations of children, adolescents and parents,” Costa explained. “They also learn more about informal science education agencies … the expectation is that when these students are teachers, they will be more likely and capable of using the resources at informal science education agencies to meet their educational objectives and to address state content standards.”
Additionally, the science education centers involved with PRISE get help in developing resources to support their science education goals, Costa added.
Other PRISE interns are Jessica Cianciotto, Robert Martin and Joelle Tittelfitz, all conducting projects at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana; Jenifer Evans, Newport Back Bay Science Center; Sarah Easterbrook, Santa Ana Zoo; and Kimberly Deckard, Ocean Institute in Dana Point.
For Berekian and Salling, they hope the summer intern experience gives them skills and knowledge to provide quality science education to their future students.
Berekian’s immediate goal is to complete the College of Education’s single subject credential program next spring, then get a job teaching high school earth science.
“I envision bringing science into the lives of students and their parents who may not have otherwise been interested,” said Berekian, 48, and a Placentia resident.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from Cal State Long Beach and a master’s in geology from Cal State Fullerton. While earning her master's degree, Berekian also worked as a Geological Science Department technician.
Berekian currently teaches geology at Orange Coast College but has always wanted to be a high school teacher.
To help her realize her goal, she landed a spot as a PRISE intern at the Ocean Institute. Her research project focuses on developing earth science curriculum to improve the quality of ninth grade science programs.
Her project is geared toward students and teachers in the Anaheim Union High School District, as well as other students who visit the Ocean Institute.
Anaheim Union High School teachers will participate in a earth science workshop in August with students visiting the Ocean Institute in the fall to get hands-on lessons about earth science.
“This project is important because it is not only providing a learning experience for students, but also for teachers from the school district who may not have a background in the earth sciences,” she said.
Students and teachers will be exposed to various areas of earth science, such as learning about ocean currents and their effects on global climate, as well as be involved in making scientific observations about ocean life, Berekian said.
“This project is giving me the experience to develop curriculum for the students that I will one day be teaching and in my area of expertise. There is nothing more valuable than hands-on experiences to learn about science, and the grant is providing this opportunity for students, teachers and interns like myself,” Berekian said.
“Through my project, I also hope to gain more understanding of my own strengths as an educator and also the areas where I am not as strong.”
At age 56, Salling, a Cal State Fullerton alumnus, has returned to his alma mater to earn a teaching credential and fulfill a lifelong career goal.
The father of three college-age children has always wanted to be a teacher but put aside that dream to start his contracting and woodworking business.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1977, he landed a job as a track coach at his high school alma mater, Orange High School. Then he started his own business, which thrived over the years and provided a comfortable living for him and his family.
“When I was first out of college, I worked as a high school coach, but got side-tracked by other interests and abilities and never got into teaching … something I always wanted to do,” said Salling, who also holds a law degree.
Salling, whose wife is an elementary teacher, is pursuing single subject credentials to teach high school earth science and biology. He plans to complete the credential program next spring.
For his PRISE internship project, he is conducting research at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon, where he lived for many years. The sanctuary is owned and operated by Cal State Fullerton and its College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
His project combines his woodworking talents with his desire to conduct science research.
Salling is handcrafting a maple map stand that will display his efforts of documenting the endangered and extinct species in the local area.
“The map will show the location of the many species of plants and animals of this area,” he said.
Salling also plans on using his research findings in his future science classroom.
“This internship is a learning experience for me. It’s a chance to expand my knowledge of science and make science more relevant for the students who visit Tucker, and for my future students,” he said.
In the fall, he will return to Orange High School to student teach, a requirement of the credential program, and also to coach track.