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Looking back at Key Issues Institute 2017 from Alison Roper

IMG 0249There is a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., that says, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”, and this quote perfectly describes the Keystone Science School and my experiences in its teacher education program this past month.  So few people become well known for their generous acts of charity, however, each person can do their small part that will synergistically combine to help make this Earth a better place for all living things that inhabit it.

I teach at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Towson, Maryland and I was given an opportunity to attend a professional development in Keystone, Colorado that was generously sponsored by W.R. Grace, a company that develops high-performance specialty chemicals to improve products and processes of customers around the world.  This company is based nearby in Columbia, Maryland.

The training I attended, Key Issues Institute, focused on STEM subjects and developing 21st Century skills like teamwork, leadership, and nonbiased inquiry.  The training consists of four full days of activities, lectures, and hands on, authentic learning experiences.  For example, one morning, three groups of teachers tested the water quality of a stream in the heart of Breckinridge, CO.  We measured pH, dissolved oxygen levels, and evaluated the health of the stream by collecting live aquatic specimens. 

By actively participating in this investigation, I now have the knowledge and experience to do the same in my school community with my students.  There is a wonderful green space called Double Rock Park that is just a couple of miles from my school.  Before I attended Key Issues Institute, I hoped to bring students to this park to apply what they learned in science class.  Now, I have the tools and confidence to turn my hope into reality.  My “small great thing” this year will consist of taking a group of students to this park and giving them the tools to critically think about not just the trees and possible trash they see in the water, but to extend their thinking to how pollution may affect life in the stream and how erosion on the banks, that is exposing tree roots, can ultimately affect life downstream. 

Hopefully my “small great thing” will impact my students so they in turn can do their own “small great things” in the future to positively impact their community.  Because, isn’t that what community is all about?  Everyone doing their own part for the greater good of humanity?

I have been greatly impacted by this experience and I know all of my future students will benefit as well.  I am so thankful for attending Key Issues Institute this summer and I urge all educators to research this opportunity. 

Alison Roper

7th and 8th grade science teacher, Immaculate Heart of Mary School

Towson, Maryland