Do You Have a Science Coach?

By Rebecca Field on January 2, 2016

Happy New Year! I thought I would take a break from reviewing science resources from the American Chemical Society (ACS), and share about my experience with the ACS Science Coaches program. This is one of the best resources I have learned about through my association with AACT! As a teacher, you can apply for an ACS Science Coach to help you improve science education for your students. Coaches can be a chemistry graduate student, professional chemist, or retiree who volunteers their time in your classroom. Your coach is required to make at least six visits during the school year. And, if that wasn’t enough, ACS donates $500 to your school to enhance science education in your classroom! I know! How amazing is that?!?

I started working with my science coach at the beginning of the 2015 school year. Her name is Amy and she is an Associate EH&S Remediation Specialist for Dow, and a Dow STEM Ambassador. So far she’s come in to assist me with my You Be The Chemist lessons. Just her presence in the classroom, and her ability to answer questions I don’t know the answer to, has increased my confidence level in teaching these lessons.

In addition to her subject matter knowledge and contributions to the classroom, Amy is a positive example of a “scientist.” More importantly, as a woman in science, she reinforces the idea that not all “scientists” look like Einstein. They can be anyone, from anywhere, with a passion for science. We’re looking forward to our next collaboration in the spring when the weather warms up, so we can conduct water testing in my school’s wetlands. Amy has worked on water clean-up projects in our local area and can enhance my normal project with her expertise and experience.

Of course, I couldn’t keep this wonderful program to myself; I shared it with my staff so they could participate and benefit from their own ACS Science Coach. Nine of us applied during the application period, and all were paired with coaches. Every teacher-coach pair is different, and establishes their own way of working together based on the classroom needs. The coach of my second grade teacher friend is working on a unit about “things that explode.” My fifth grade teacher friend receives monthly emails from her coach suggesting ways to supplement science topics already in our curriculum. Her coach has also developed lessons designed to find the DNA of a strawberry. (Editor’s note: You can find a similar lesson on Strawberry DNA in the AACT resource library.) And another of the coaches working in my school brought in volunteers to teach energy by moving students through stations and hands-on experiments.

I cannot recommend this program to you enough! It’s amazing!!! You can visit the ACS Science Coaches webpage for more information. While the enrollment period has ended for this year, look for it to open up before the next school year starts. There is a limit to the number of teacher/coach pairs they accept, so my advice is to apply early. And if you do find yourself with a science coach next year, I hope it enriches your science educational experiences as much as it has mine!

Rebecca is a 5th grade Gifted and Talented teacher at Kolb Elementary School in Bay City, Michigan. This is her 20th year of teaching. She has two curious children, Emma and Isaiah. She loves to read, and is addicted to Pinterest.