Curriculum by 2009 Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows Published Online

October 8, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             
Michelle Wade, New Haven Public Schools  946-8450
Josiah Brown, Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute  432-1080
Curriculum Units by 2009 Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows Published Online; Evaluation Links Partnership to Teacher Quality, Teacher Retention
Curriculum units New Haven teachers from more than twenty public schools developed as Fellows in 2009, the 32nd year of Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminars, are available, with material from previous years, at this website. ( A recent evaluation suggests the Teachers Institute approach enhances teacher quality in precisely the ways known to increase student achievement. In New Haven, teachers who had participated in the Institute were almost twice as likely as other teachers to remain in teaching in the school district. Superintendent Reginald Mayo said, “The Institute has made an enormous contribution to strengthening teaching and learning in the New Haven Public Schools.”
The new volumes of curricular resources reflect efforts of some fifty New Haven teachers, in collaboration with Yale faculty members in the humanities and the sciences who led five concurrent seminars on the Yale campus spanning the spring and summer:
·         “Writing, Knowing, Seeing,” led by Janice Carlisle, Professor of English
·         “The Modern World in Literature and the Arts,” led by Pericles Lewis, Professor of English and of Comparative Literature
·         “Science and Engineering in the Kitchen,” led by Eric R. Dufresne, John J. Lee Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Physics
·         “How We Learn about the Brain,” led by William B. Stewart, Associate Professor of Anatomy (Surgery)
·         “Evolutionary Medicine,” led by Paul E. Turner, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
The curriculum units include appendices with explicit references to academic standards they address in the teaching of reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, art, health, and Spanish and French, as well as English.  The units Fellows prepared across the five seminars are intended to challenge and motivate students in keeping with district curricula.
In introducing the volume on “Writing, Knowing, Seeing” Janice Carlisle asked, “How does writing help us know what we see? By considering the theoretical bases of that question, Fellows in this seminar developed curriculum units that explore its practical implications.”
The volume on “The Modern World in Literature and the Arts,” too, comprises units by teachers of reading and writing – in Spanish and French as well as English – from elementary grades through high school. According to seminar leader Pericles Lewis,
“Literature and the visual arts offer outstanding opportunities to teach students about the modern world. . . . Works were selected because they were likely to be of interest to teachers and also to middle- and high-school students.”
The seminar on “Science and Engineering in the Kitchen” mainly involved elementary and middle-grades teachers.  Their units aim through direct inquiry to teach science and math – including measurement and proportion – while reinforcing literacy.  Eric R. Dufresne said,
“Every child is a natural scientist. Every kitchen is a laboratory. . . . We placed special emphasis on hands-on classroom activities. . . . Some units are focused on the science of food. How is candy made? How do micro-organisms help us make food? Some units are focused on teaching basic scientific principles using examples from the kitchen. What is the scientific method? What are solids and liquids and why are some materials hard to classify? What are the differences between igneous and sedimentary rock?”
Introducing “How We Learn about the Brain,” William B. Stewart said “much of what we know about our own brains is derived from the study of . . . other animals. He continued,
“We can also study the brain and senses by investigating how disease, injury and drugs alter their functions. Stroke, brain injury, alcoholism, Parkinson's . . . Alzheimer's . . .  Huntington's disease, poor nutrition and drugs – both prescribed and illicit – alter the way we sense, think and behave.”
In one unit, students will explore effects of sleep, breakfast, omega-3 fatty acids, and drugs on cognitive abilities. Skill-building includes: assessing lab reports, identifying the hypothesis, independent variable and controls, interpreting graphics, and interdisciplinary writing.
“Evolutionary Medicine” produced units in science and math, with attention to  history of science and epidemiology as the H1N1 virus arose as a concern. According to Paul E. Turner,
“This seminar explored ways to teach students about . . . evolutionary medicine, emphasizing that this interdisciplinary science helps explain the origins of medical conditions including obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, allergies and aging. . . . Evolutionary medicine informs why humans often suffer from infectious diseases . . . how illnesses such as smallpox, malaria, AIDS and the flu have influenced human evolution, societal interactions, and major historical events.”
Resulting units include “Using Mathematics to Explain the Spread of Diseases” and another math unit focusing on West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Providing historical context, one unit considers “Combating Epidemics and Infectious Diseases in America,” while another uses viruses to teach biology students “macroevolution through microevolution.”
Teacher leadership is fundamental to the Institute approach. In addition to participating as Fellows – including writing units for students – in seminars university faculty members lead, teachers shape seminar offerings through school Representatives. This fall, teachers representing their New Haven schools have begun canvassing colleagues to identify topics on which the program should offer seminars in 2010. Seminars respond to teachers’ requests for what is most useful to them and compelling to their students in addressing the district’s curricular needs.
In 2009, in To Strengthen Teaching: An Evaluation of Teachers Institute Experiences (online at, Rogers M. Smith, who is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, reported that
·         the Teachers Institute approach enhances teacher quality in precisely the ways that are known to increase student achievement;
·         Teachers Institutes exemplify the crucial characteristics of high-quality teacher professional development; and
·         Institute participation is strongly correlated with teacher retention in urban public schools. In New Haven, teachers who had participated in the Institute were almost twice as likely as other teachers to remain in teaching in the school district.
According to Rogers M. Smith,
“In Institute seminars teachers gain more sophisticated content knowledge and also enhance their skills as they prepare curriculum units adapting the themes of their seminars for their students. Most teachers are enthusiastic about the seminars and the opportunity to teach the units they have written. They expect more of the students taking them. And they succeed in motivating their students to learn at higher levels.”
The study also examined retrospectively the results of Institute participation for New Haven teachers between 2000 and 2005. Smith said,
“The New Haven quantitative study indicates that Institute seminars attract a broad range of teachers from every observable demographic category and that those who choose to be Fellows are much more likely to continue teaching in the district than those who are not.”
Reginald Mayo, who since 1992 has been Superintendent of the New Haven Public Schools, Yale’s partner in its Teachers Institute, said this report underscores the benefits he has long observed the district receives from the Institute:
“The Institute has made an enormous contribution to strengthening teaching and learning in the New Haven Public Schools. It has been a significant factor in school improvement by exciting teachers and sparking student interest in learning. I have seen how powerful Institute participation can be for creating a very fruitful collaboration among teachers within a school, and in stimulating them to learn more about the subjects they teach and to develop new classroom materials that excite and engage students in learning. Maintaining this kind of teacher quality in our schools has never been more important, so the report’s finding about the retention of Institute participants is especially encouraging.”
Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts designed to strengthen teaching and learning in a community’s public schools. The Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools is a long-term endeavor to establish exemplary Teachers Institutes in underserved school districts in states throughout the country. It builds upon the success of a four-year National Demonstration Project. The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, a permanently endowed unit of Yale University, is beginning its thirty-third year.  
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