The American Museum of Natural History, in New York City, yesterday graduated its first set of science teachers under a pilot residency program that has them working alongside scientists and in urban schools.
The 20 graduates in the inaugural class received a Masters of Arts in Teaching under the auspices of the state Board of Regents. The New York institution is the first museum in the nation authorized to formally train teachers.
AMNH was a winner in a program that the New York State education department sponsored with a cut of its winnings from the federal Race to the Top competition. New York's goal was to set up "clinically rich" teacher education programs with at least a year of hands-on training in schools. One of its innovations was in opening the door to non-university-based programs, and while most of the winners were traditional teacher colleges, the AMNH was a standout.
The museum's program prepares candidates to teach earth science in grades 7-12, a grade span that's had a particularly hard time holding onto educators, according to state data. The AMNH program includes a summer working with educators at the museum, another summer working with scientists, and a full year of practicing in schools .
The experiment comes during a period of upheaval in teacher preparation (think pending federal regulations, new accreditation standards, and nongovernmental critiques). And the idea of opening up teacher preparation to nontraditional providers has also gained a broader following: A recently introduced piece of federal legislation envisions a system that would fund more non-university-based programs.
Photo: Graduates of the American Museum of Natural History's Master of Arts in Teaching program receive their degrees in a ceremony held at the museum's iconic Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. Photo courtesy of the AMNH.