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Science in the CIty

By Claire Kuhlkin

Posted: Monday, Aug. 25, 2014

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Discovery Place’s Vice President of Learning Experiences, Robert Corbin has set out to help teachers from around the state upgrade how they think about, and teach science through their new Education Studio.

After working for years as a science teacher for the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District Robert Corbin saw a need for further teacher education that needed to be filled. When he left CMS and moved on to a collegiate atmosphere, he continued to develop this idea, which was ultimately put in to action when he began to work with Discovery Place. We got to sit down with this visionary and discuss his inspiration and plans for the future.

What was your main goal with the Education Studio?

First of all, I wanted a place where teachers could be inspired again. We like to think of the Studio as kind of a Hogwarts for educators, a nexus where they can come and borrow methods from us, other K-12 teachers, and even extraordinary outside scholars that we collaborate with. It is a third space that they can come and explore, and hopefully by addressing the adults first, it will trickle down and translate into better teaching methods for students.

So, what kind of programs do you utilize?

We have many different signature programs that can range from half a day to up to three years. The longest, the STEM Fellows program, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, is the three year program and it allows us to work with teachers on all of those different sciences. They learn how to make an inquiry-based lesson plan and go on a three-day excursion during year one, in year two they get to explore different field experiences while partnering with educators in different fields, and in year three they develop and propose a high-level research project.

Is this Studio only for those who teach in the science field?

While we do focus on science, we welcome anyone who wants to further their knowledge. We’ve had administrators come for some of our shorter programs, just to familiarize themselves with a field of study they previously may have known very little about. I would also like to point out that this is not just for CMS, we are here for everyone from public to charter schools and encourage people from all over the Carolina’s to come see what we’re doing here.

Is anything unexpected happening at the Education Studio?

We are actually part of the Maker Movement, which basically says that humans have an innate desire to create. As a result we have put together a whole area devoted to that concept. We have brought in things like welding equipment and 3D printers so they can work with different mediums and build things from nothing.

What kind of accolades have you accumulated for this idea?

Well, many of our students, especially in the longer programs, get to co-publish and present various findings at national conferences. Their works are always top notch and I think they have transformed not only their own attitudes, but also the attitudes of those who externally evaluate us. There have been many articles published that applaud the developments we have made, which makes us very hopeful for the future.

That being said, what do you have in mind for the Education Studio in the future?

We are extremely aspirational, we would love to reach all corners of North and South Carolina and be able to replicate this model. Throughout the Carolinas there about 200 museums and aquariums that could potentially house the same exact type of programs, and with this kind of response and success why wouldn’t this be replicable?

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