Looking Back: Innovative Programs of the Fermilab Education Office
In 1983, Friends of Fermilab offered Fermilab's first teacher professional development program, the Summer Institute for Science Teachers. It was an exciting time when we all were pioneers in a new education adventure. What an adventure it has been! Friends laid the groundwork for the Fermilab Education Office and the Lederman Science Center.

Setting up Friends of Fermilab, a non-profit, to raise money for a DOE lab's K-12 programs was an unusual idea, the brainchild of Stanka and Drasko Jovaonvic. Friends was able to support programs that Lab Director Leon Lederman wanted to offer but could not support with Fermilab's operating funds.

We took a unique approach to our programming. First, we listened as teachers and administrators identified their needs. Then, we invested in master teachers, providing opportunities for them to learn science content and education research so they could design and conduct effective professional development programs with us. Scientists were the content specialists; master teachers were the education specialists.

We'd like to highlight some of our innovative initiatives.

Interactions in Understanding the Universe, an "educational virtual organization," strengthens the education and outreach activities of scientific experiments at U.S. universities and laboratories. I2U2 creates and maintains an infrastructure and common fabric to develop hands-on laboratory course content and provide an interactive learning experience that brings tangible aspects of each experiment into an accessible "virtual laboratory" setting for education at different levels and in various venues. Website

In its tenth year, QuarkNet is a first-of-a-find professional development program that modeled on the scientific research enterprise with a central program framework and management that supports a program distributed across as many as 50 research groups at universities and labs nationwide. The program was designed based on successful programs at Fermilab. Building from a variety of research experiences, our goals for teachers include a deeper understanding of physics content, an appreciation for the machinery of modern science, an introduction to inquiry-based teaching as well as evolution in individual teaching to a more student-centered mode of instruction. Website

Learning with Fermilab Data
The first of several student investigations using Fermilab data, Calculate the Mass of the Top Quark, was suggested by one of our master teachers. Using conservation of momentum and vector addition, students calculate the mass of the top quark from a fingerprint of a top/antitop production that took place in the DZero Detector at Fermilab on July 9, 1995. Based on our experience developing online engaged learning projects, we turned a paper-and-pencil activity into an online investigation. Other physics investigations look at special relativity with data from E687; the search for Higgs from CDF data, and cosmic rays with data from student experiments with classroom detectors. Website

Physics First
How about a three-year standards-based program . . .
  • Where learning science is something ALL students do, not something that is done to them?
  • Where ALL students develop scientific knowledge and habits of mind through inquiry?
  • Where ALL students need opportunities for an in-depth engagement in science?
Following Leon Lederman's passion, teachers from six high schools turned their course sequence upside down creating "mostly" Physics-First curricula. Website

Fermilab Leadership Institute
Teachers wanted to learn how to use the Web in their classrooms, so we developed an online course, the Fermilab Leadership Institute Integrating Internet, Instruction and Curriculum (LInC). The latest Fermilab LInC course facilitates teachers through the process of evaluating, selecting and customizing an inquiry-based online project to teach content in their existing curriculum. Then, participants exchange ideas and feedback with colleagues and experienced engaged learning mentors each step of the way as they field-test their project with students. LInC courses can be offered in a face-to-face, partial-online or full-online format. A LInC Facilitators' Academy prepares educators to offer a LInC course in their region. Website

Launched in 1994, the Education Office website was one of the earliest websites that contained resources for educators. Thanks to the savvy of Laura Mengel, as soon as a browser became availabe, our staff created our first website. We recently completed a major update thanks, in large part to work by Liz Quigg. Website

Lederman Science Center
Named for Nobel Laureate and former Fermilab Director Leon M. Lederman, the Center is home to the Teacher Resource Center and the Quarks to Quasars exhibits. The TRC houses a preview collection of K-12 instructional materials. TRC services include professional development workshops, consultation assistance, bibliographies and reference assistance. The Quarks to Quasars exhibits provide hands-on experiences exploring how Fermilab physicists understand nature's secrets. The unique collection of exhibits allow younger students to have an engaging field trip. Website

DOE Collaboration
We provided critical leadership for the National Teacher Enhancement Program co-funded by DOE and NSF at nine national labs. Programs were designed around the use of immersion experiences, facilitated by scientists, that modeled scientific inquiry and provided science content knowledge. NTEP institutes also developed teacher-leadership teams that undertook systemic improvements of science education in their schools and districts. Website

Prairie Programs
Building on our previous experience with Beauty and Charm, we developed two prairie programs with instructional units, teacher workshops and field studies in the Fermilab prairie and savannah. Upper elementary students learn about the ecosystem; midlevel students are conducting a longitudinal study of the prairie restoration. They have a website where their data and analysis tools are stored. Website

Beauty and Charm
Teachers asked to bring middle school students to Fermilab to meet scientists and see where they worked. We developed a three-part program: an instructional unit, a teacher workshop and a student field trip. Although some were skeptical about what would be appropriate for middle students to learn, the unit is aligned with the National Science Education Standards and the Illinois Learning Standards, and features themes such as "Methods of Science," "Seeing the Unseen," and the "Human Element" of science. Twenty years later, B&C is going strong. Website