Make Friends with a Science Materials Center Near You
Is your district thinking of starting up a science materials center? Do you already have a center and would like to share ideas with others? In the Fall 2002 newsletter we shared the experience of FOSS educators who gathered in Boulder, CO, for a FOSS Materials Management Symposium ("The FOSS Materials Management Symposium: Keeping the Investment Robust"). The districts represented at the symposium were just the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, districts and consortiums are grappling with the challenge of how to efficiently refurbish and share inquiry-based science kits. As a result, science materials centers are popping up everywhere.
Every material center enters into the challenge with its own set of unique local policies, funding strategies, resource availability, and partnerships that converge to create the solutions best suited to their needs. The Center for Math and Science in South Dakota is one of several centers, for example, that sends out refurbishment materials to many of their schools rather than bring the kits into the center. In Texas, the Tyler School District chose to weave the materials center into their Life Skills program. Students in the program learn valuable job skills in the process of managing the refurbishment and tracking of science kits. They have also established a partnership with Coca Cola®, which now delivers and picks up science kits in addition to delivering beverages. Several materials centers have developed systems for attracting and utilizing volunteers. One exemplary program is at ESD 112 in Washington where volunteers take care of inventorying all the kits for the Evergreen district.
Whenever materials center folks meet, there is plenty to talk about and plenty to be learned from each other. Look for "Nuts and Bolts" sessions held in conjunction with regional NSTA conferences, where representatives from centers in the area can come together to discuss innovations, solutions, and possible collaboration. Or, consider hosting your own "Nuts and Bolts" sessions in your area.
We've included a partial list of science centers that support FOSS educators across the country to help you locate others in your area, and other centers similar to your own. If you'd like to have your center added to the list, please contact Sue Jagoda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be a FOSS Materials Management workshop at the NSTA National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, March 29, 2003, from 8:00–11:00 a.m. There will also be a summer Materials Management Symposium hosted by a FOSS materials center. For more information on these events, contact Alev Burton (see information on page 23 of this newsletter).