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Dr. Tom Bielik (top, left) and an international group of students and researchers met for a science education workshop

CREATE for Stem-Israel Collaboration Creates Shared Science Education Platforms

in a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Michigan and Israel, science education graduate students are exposed to new ideas, methods and cultures

Dr. Tom Bielik (top, left) and an international group of students and researchers met for a science education workshop

Dr. Tom Bielik (top, left) and an international group of students and researchers met for a science education workshop

What will it take for the world to see its next scientific sensation? Where will the next game changing technology originate? And what role will science teachers play in fostering groundbreaking discovery and innovation? These are some of the questions that were addressed at a recent collaborative workshop between Michigan State University (MSU), the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

The first-of-its-kind collaboration – including 11 PhD students and five faculty members of MSU, a Master’s student from the University of Victoria in Australia and two students from the Technion –  its aim was to create shared platforms for science education researchers in the US and Israel.  Over a span of two weeks the participants took part in a series of lectures and group exercises, and conducted research studies to analyze different programs for science teachers’ professional development. At the conclusion of the workshop, each group gave a presentation on their research.

Stefanie Marshall: "We all walked away having learned not only about effective components of professional development, but we also had a cultural experience"
Stefanie Marshall: “We all walked away having learned not only about effective components of professional development, but we also had a cultural experience”

The program was initiated by Weizmann Institute graduate Dr. Tom Bielik, whose PhD studies focused on in developing students’ inquiry skills. He is currently conducting his postdoctoral studies at the CREATE for Stem Institute at MSU.

“After moving there (Michigan), I realized that students here usually don’t have opportunities to work closely with and learn from other researchers abroad because Israel is far away from the US and also from Europe. We often attend international conferences, but we are lacking deep interaction.”

Students here usually don’t have opportunities to work closely with and learn from other researchers abroad

With this new initiative Bielik aims to create a collaborative platform for STEM education researchers in the US and Israel in the hopes they will continue to work and learn from one another in the future.

One of the participants from MSU, Stefanie Marshall, a PhD candidate, said of the program, “Working together allowed for learning about our cultures, educational experiences, and learning about various research methodologies each of us have experienced in various projects, as well is in our own work. We all walked away having learned not only about effective components of professional development, but we also had a cultural experience.”

Rachel Eidelman, a PhD student in the Science Teaching Department of the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Durrell Jones, a PhD student at MSU

Marshall, who is approaching her fifth year as an educational policy student is focusing on science education policy. For years, according to Marshall, science is a subject that has been ignored in the public school system at the elementary school level (although not at the middle and high-school levels). Now, however, as a result of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) recently adopted by several US states, science is back on the radar.

“Tom Bielik and the CREATE for Stem staff and faculty provided us various opportunities to engage with faculty and students from both Weizmann and the Technion, allowing us to expand our own understanding in a different context. The partnership has provided space for me to consider how I present my work as an educational policy student,” Marshall said.

During the two week course the participants had the opportunity to spend a couple of days on the Technion campus as well.  They also enjoyed some of Israel’s popular attractions such as the Dead Sea in the southern region of the country, and Jerusalem and Haifa in the North. Bielik hopes to continue giving the course at least every other year.

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Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.

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