A diverse group of educators from the Green Bank Observatory, West Virginia University Extension Service, Pocahontas County Libraries and the Morgantown Public Library System have teamed up to become The West Virginia Leap into Science State Leadership Team. Out of more than 20 applications from around the nation, West Virginia was one of four state teams selected.
The Leap into Science initiative is led by The Franklin Institute, the National Girls Collaborative Project, and the Institute for Learning Innovation, with support from the National Science Foundation. Developed by The Franklin Institute, Leap into Science integrates open-ended science activities with children’s books, designed for children ages 3-10 and their families. Leap into Science workshops help children think like a scientist through exploration of everyday concepts like balance, wind and air and light and shadows. Funding for this project provides resources, training and assistance to state teams through 2021.
What began as a local Franklin Institute program is now expanding nationwide as Leap Into Science builds state-based networks to bring literacy and science exploration activities to community settings like local libraries, youth club meetings, and after school programs. Over the next three years the West Virginia State Leadership team will provide training workshops to 60 informal educators each year, and they in turn will provide hands-on workshops for children and families.
GBO educators Sophie Knudsen and Sherry McCarty have just completed leadership training at the Franklin Institute, where they learned how to provide professional development to other educators in West Virginia through a train the trainer model. “This program is a perfect fit for the Green Bank Observatory,” according to Sophie Knudsen. “The values and approach of Leap into Science closely align with those of our own education programs. Similar to the Leap program, we help students learn to question, and think like a scientist.” Sherry McCarty finds added value in participating as it represents an opportunity to raise awareness of Green Bank Observatory in all 55 counties in West Virginia.
The next step is to recruit and train educators across the state. Educators who join the WV Leap into Science network will receive free professional development and training in leading STEM and literacy workshops for young children and families, free curricula, Leap Into Science material kits, and ongoing support.
The WV Leap State Leadership Team include Sophie Knudsen and Sherry McCarty from Green Bank Observatory; Sarah Palfrey from Morgantown Public Library System, Cree Lahti from Pocahontas County Public Library System, and Mollie Toppe, Shannon Cottrill, and Autumn Starcher from West Virginia University Extension Service.
Further information about the national program may be found on the Franklin Institute Web site: leap.fi.edu