At first glance inside a classroom at Rice University's Brockman Hall, they look like students thoroughly engaged in instruction. But they're high school chemistry teachers in the HISD involved in RESST, the new Rice Excellence in Secondary Science Teaching program.
Keisha Fields started teaching chemistry at Sam Houston High School in January.
"I am very excited about this program. It's actually making me love chemistry a little bit more, because I thought I would be teaching physics. I'm glad to learn new techniques about teaching. It's helping me as a new teacher, so I'm ready!"
Teachers are being taught by Rice Dean of undergraduates and chemistry professor John Hutchinson. He says the RESST program is designed to expand their knowledge of the sciences: biology, chemistry and physics, and to develop teaching methods based on what's called "inquiry learning":
"Asking questions about observations that we can make, and then coming to conclusions on the basis of those observations, that give us an understanding of maybe things that we can't directly observe. It also appeals to their learning style more of 'What can I see and what can I learn from what I see?' Not just students, but actually people in general learn better that way."
HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier calls it a great opportunity that gives instructors content as they hone their teaching skills.
"It's an exciting combination, and that's what really attracted me to this opportunity with Rice. But what Rice has also offered to do is their professors have offered to sit with our teachers and staff, and completely redo our curriculum in these areas, to align them more tightly to our state and international standards."
Grier says it's not just what to teach or how to teach, but raising the academic rigor that he and teachers see in the classroom, which he calls key to students' future.