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Interested in sharing your love of science with young people? REFOCUS provides an opportunity for both current and retired professionals in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines to support science and math teachers in K-12 classrooms.

This new program builds on a successful course taught at the University of Georgia called Project FOCUS (Fostering Our Community's Understanding of Science). The 3-credit university class partners UGA undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences with elementary and middle school teachers. University students learn about teaching methods and philosophies, while teachers have access to science expertise. As the students spend 3 hours each week during the semester working with the teachers in science instruction, they collaboratively develop lesson plans aligned with state standards. To date, 1,150 UGA students have participated in this program, with a corresponding number of school teacher partners. Nearly 25,000 children have been in a classroom with a FOCUS student.

While the program has been a success, it has been unable to expand to meet the requests for Project FOCUS students from teachers and administrators outside of Clarke County. In particular, we have been unable to meet the needs for partnerships with high school teachers, and Project FOCUS cannot address needs of schools or districts located any significant distance from UGA, since students cannot return to campus in time for their classes.

REFOCUS (Recruitment Enhances FOCUS), enhances the current Project FOCUS partnership. With partial support from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we are bringing STEM professionals into classrooms in the Athens area and surrounding communities.

What will you do?

As a REFOCUS volunteer, you will be paired with a teacher based on mutual interests in grade level and subject matter expertise and location. One of the most important aspects of REFOCUS is continued interaction between you, the teacher, and the students. We have found this is much more effective than a single 'drop in' event by a STEM professional. You and the teacher will develop a plan that best fits each of your schedules, but we ask that you spend some significant time in the classroom during the semester (approximately 30 hours total).

Your experiences will be valuable to the students and teacher. We realize, however, that you may have had relatively little teaching experience. Prior to teaching in the classroom, we will provide you with online resources to enhance your interactions. We will also provide personal support. If you are going to be in a K-8 classroom, you will participate in some of the early-semester activities of Project FOCUS. If you are going to be in grades 9-12, we will provide several individual sessions.

Many studies have shown that hands-on activities enhance effective learning. While it is likely that you will not need to design the specific lessons that you teach, engaging the students in active learning will be important. We have many resources to assist you in developing these activities.

As you are involved in the classroom, we will continue to interact with you to support your teaching efforts. We also anticipate having one or two gatherings of all the REFOCUS volunteers to share best practices.

For Teachers

Would you be interested in hosting a REFOCUS volunteer in your classroom in the coming semester? As indicated above, the volunteer will be a current or retired STEM professional. They are asked to spend about 30 hours during the semester in your classroom, assisting you in the teaching of STEM disciplines. We will provide them with some background on classroom teaching and will continue to provide supportive interaction with them during the semester.

REFOCUS Participant Application for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals who are interested in sharing their knowledge through volunteering in local science classrooms.

REFOCUS Interested Teacher Application for teachers who are interested in hosting a current or retired STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professional in their classroom for about 30 hours a semester to allow them to share their knowledge of science with students in grades K-12.

Resources

REFOCUS Mission

REFOCUS is a science outreach program that places retired STEM professionals in classrooms in Athens-Clarke County and other surrounding counties to encourage hands-on, applicable science education.

REFOCUS Goals and Objectives

  1. Develop a cadre of STEM professionals that interact with K-12 STEM teachers to enhance teaching and learning in the schools.

  2. Enhance STEM professionals' knowledge of K-12 STEM education.

  3. Expand K-12 students' vision of how STEM disciplines are practiced and who participates in STEM careers.

  4. Create a sustainable program that will continue and expand after AAAS funding concludes.