Curriculum Units by 2010 Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows Published Online

Monday, September 20, 2010

Contact:          Michelle Wade, (203) 946-8450  Cell – (203) 675-5132
Curriculum Units by 2010 Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Fellows Published Online
Partnership Supports Reform; Evaluation Links Approach to Teacher Quality, Retention
New Haven - Curriculum unit teachers from seventeen New Haven public schools developed as Fellows in 2010, the thirty-third year of Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute seminars, are available at this website. (
An evaluation published in 2009 establishes that the Teachers Institute approach enhances teacher quality in precisely the ways known to increase student achievement. Also, teachers who had participated in the Institute in New Haven were almost twice as likely as other teachers to remain in teaching in the school district.
Superintendent Reginald Mayo said, “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. The Institute now can greatly assist with the district’s reform plans.”
The new volumes of curricular resources contain units by New Haven teachers, who worked as colleagues with Yale faculty members in the humanities and the sciences who led four concurrent seminars on campus during the spring and summer.  The volumes are:
·         “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Consumer Culture,” from a seminar led by Jean-Christophe Agnew, Professor of American Studies and of History
·         “The Art of Reading People: Character, Expression, Interpretation,” led by Jill Campbell, Professor of English
·         “Geomicrobiology: How Microbes Shape Our Planet,” from a seminar with a similar title led by Ruth E. Blake, Professor of Geology and Geophysics
·         “Renewable Energy,” led by Gary W. Brudvig, Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry
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 four seminars are intended to challenge and motivate students, consistent with district curricula.
Introducing the volume on “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Consumer Culture,” Jean-Christophe Agnew observed, “The history of consumer culture is a very long one, stretching back centuries and over thousands of miles of sea-borne trade routes. Our seminar focused on the last three-quarters of a century, from the Depression and World War II onward, when the political and economic architecture of an energy-intensive, highway-dominated, urban/suburban matrix was set into place. Drawing on work by historians, sociologists, ethnographers, economists, cultural studies scholars and a few short-story authors, we explored the impact of consumer culture on generational consciousness, citizenship and civil rights, race and ethnicity, children and family dynamics, and the environment.” He said the Fellows’ curriculum units provide “not only compelling distillations of the ideas and approaches taken up in the seminar but, in keeping with the classroom mastery brought by the Fellows themselves, an extraordinarily imaginative yet entirely practicable array of lesson plans and activities that translate those ideas and approaches into workable, teachable experiences.”
According to Jill Campbell, the seminar on “The Art of Reading People: Character, Expression, Interpretation” combined teachers of “ language arts, visual art, middle school and high school English, creative writing, critical writing, and the advanced study of literature.” Across grade levels and classrooms, she continued, “As teachers, we share an urgent concern to heighten our students' abilities to make observations, to draw inferences, and to reflect on their understandings of other people, as well to articulate” these thoughts. Seminar participants considered “the great human interpretive questions posed by our encounters with other people – whether characters in fictional narratives; speakers in lyric poems or in plays; flesh and blood individuals met face to face; or people known primarily or only to us through technologically mediated or virtual means.” Readings ranged from stories by Poe and Edward P. Jones, to dramatic monologues by Robert Browning, Sharon Olds, and Langston Hughes as well as Shakespeare's The Tempest, a novel by Mark Haddon, an autobiographical account by Temple Grandin, and Jane Austen's Emma. Recognizing “the rich and various group of curriculum units that emerged,” Campbell noted the participants’ “teaching seeks to foster social and emotional development, even as it sets high goals for the intellectual development of our students of every achievement level and age.”
In the words of Ruth E. Blake, the volume on “Geomicrobiology: How Microbes Shape Our Planet” introduces “a highly interdisciplinary field applied to the study of interactions between microorganisms and Earth systems over the full range of geologic time and spatial scales.” She said, “The goal of this seminar was to expand science curriculum content” and to “reinforce teachers' comprehension of fundamental concepts and knowledge of chemistry, geology, microbiology and biochemistry.” Therefore, “processes that govern metabolism and are common to all living organisms,” as well as demonstrations with microscopes, were included in the seminar. Units cover concepts in chemistry, energy flow and metabolic diversity, as well as physiological features of bacteria such as cell morphology, motility and reproduction, and the impacts of microbes on society. Certain units focus on the marine habitat of Long Island Sound.  Several cover topics such as photosynthesis and the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles, from different perspectives and at different depths appropriate to each grade level. She said, “This approach provides reinforcement of the more technical aspects and fundamental chemical concepts included in the seminar, so that, for example, a middle- or high-school instructor could benefit from the units written for K-2 students and vice versa.”
Gary W. Brudvig introduced the “Renewable Energy” volume: “We can learn much about sustainable energy use by studying natural processes. Nature has solved the renewable energy problem through photosynthesis. Plants are amazing chemical factories and provide a working example of renewable solar energy conversion.” He said, “By understanding how plants carry out processes of solar energy utilization, we can obtain some answers to the question of how we can harvest solar energy through artificial photosynthesis.” His seminar included many demonstrations chosen to involve Fellows’ students and illustrate “scientific principles related to renewable energy.” He observed, “The timeliness of these discussions was brought home by the BP oil spill.” Together the Fellows’ curriculum units aim through direct inquiry to teach science and math – including statistics and graphing – while reinforcing literacy and social studies. He said, “I would encourage all teachers of elementary through high-school students to review these curriculum units,” to “engage students' interest and teach them about renewable energy” while offering “a valuable resource for incorporating topics of science and society into the classroom.
Nearly half of the 2010 Fellows participated in the Institute for the first time. Of the 17 schools the Fellows represent, ten (10) schools have at least two Fellows each; six have at least three Fellows each. One school, Cooperative Arts and Humanities, has five Fellows, while two schools -- Hill Regional Career and Nathan Hale -- have four Fellows each. Betsy Ross, James Hillhouse, and Wilbur Cross schools have three Fellows each.  Davis Street, Hyde, John Martinez, and Roberto Clemente schools have two Fellows each.  Other schools with 2010 Fellows are East Rock, Edgewood, High School in the Community, King/Robinson, Mauro-Sheridan, New Haven Academy, and Polly McCabe.  Four of the New Haven Fellows -- from Betsy Ross, Career, Edgewood, and Wilbur Cross -- were also in national seminars, among National Fellows from 13 school districts in nine communities in eight states.
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 are canvassing colleagues to identify topics on which the program should offer seminars in 2011. Seminars respond to teachers’ requests for what is most useful to them and compelling to their students in addressing the district’s curricular needs.
Superintendent Reginald Mayo said: “The Institute has made an enormous contribution to strengthening teaching and learning in the New Haven Public Schools. This partnership holds promise for the future. The district, with the Mayor of New Haven and the New Haven Federation of Teachers, has entered a new, creative period of school reform, which I envision the Institute can greatly assist. The Federation and the Schools have worked together in developing a new system of teacher evaluation. The Institute can assist teachers who will be rated on three components: student performance; teacher planning, preparation and classroom practice; and teacher professional values of collegiality and high expectations for their students. Institute participation strongly supports teachers in each of these three areas. I will continue to encourage teachers to seize the opportunity of Institute participation, and to join the Institute in planning seminars and other programs that address their specific 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.”
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-fourth year.