The Governing Board of Tucson Unified School District created the Science Resource Center (SRC) in 1992. Their goal was to purchase and maintain a high quality curriculum for effective science instruction for all students.
Historically, science materials were housed at schools. Within a few years of any adoption, most of the curriculum was dismantled, lost, or broken. Research showing that large school districts could save money and maintain a curriculum indefinitely by centrally maintaining it led TUSD to create the SRC, thus providing a consistent science curriculum for all students.
Starting in 1993 with only two science modules per elementary grade level, the SRC has grown to provide three modules per grade level K-8. The curriculum is maintained at the SRC, including all the consumable materials and live organisms necessary to do science and delivered in excellent condition to every K-8 science teacher in the district. Employees refurbish each kit within a unique and extensive rotational schedule in order to provide complete kits ready for inquiry-based science instruction in every classroom.
TUSD also realizes the need for professional development to support the effective use of this investment. Funding is allocated to support foundation level classes for each module, with additional science education workshops provided at each school as requested. In addition, teachers may receive one-on-one assistance from the TUSD Science Specialists, and administrators also benefit from ongoing communication and school support to enable effective science instruction in all classrooms.
Foundation classes allow teachers to experience the investigations in the modules first hand, learn the science content, acquire teaching strategies and connect science to reading, writing and math objectives. Fiction and non-fiction reading materials and math extensions are included in the elementary curriculum.
To further support teachers, the SRC prepares and maintains a 75 member Teacher Leader Cadre (Science Facilitators) who collaborate and communicate between each school and the SRC. The SRC website highlights each curriculum module, providing teachers with bibliographies, teacher tips, and website links for students.
NSF funded, The DESERT Project (1998), was awarded to TUSD based on three factors: 1) nationally recognized curriculum 2) centralized science delivery center and 3) readiness. This grant enabled teachers to improve their level of science instruction from "activity for activity" sake to meaningful learning for all students.
For the school year 2003-2004, TUSD was poised to take advantage of the intensive preparation and investment in the SRC to affect student achievement in reading, writing, and math. The science curriculum is the perfect vehicle for contextual learning/integration. Several schools stated their interest in focusing on science integration. The SRC has capable personnel who are prepared to work with interested schools in pursuing this endeavor as well as maintaining a highly qualified science teacher workforce. Significant opportunities for TUSD to capitalize on corporate support in planning the future of science education continue to emerge with local business and industry.
As science education became more recognized as a perfect vehicle for learning the content of science, the skills of inquiry-based thinking, and integrated, relevant learning experiences for children, teachers and administrators became ever more diligent in providing a rigorous and enriching curriculum. Professional development is continually developed and refined to meet the needs of both novice and experienced teachers, and includes such topics as Using Science Notebooks to Enhance Science Learning, Vocabulary Building, Graphic Organizers to Organize Thinking, Understanding by Design in Science, Differentiated Instruction for Science Learning, and Informational Text Strategies.
Fortunately for the children of our Tucson community, neighboring schools and districts became interested in also providing hands-on/minds-on curriculum for their students. In 2007-2008, partnerships were developed with Sunnyside Unified School District and Flowing Wells Unified School District, and kits, along with professional development, were provided through the SRC. It was clearly time to consider the Science Resource Center as more than a TUSD entity and it evolved into the Regional Science Resource Center as a model of collaboration and enhancement of science curriculum for many of our children in the Tucson Region. More partners became involved, including the Altar Valley School District, Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind, Nellie P. Covert School, and more.
The Tucson Unified Science Department: