Dear Educator:
You are invited to participate as a teacher-advisor in an innovative project to develop, test and evaluate online learning resources for Chicago's Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (formerly the Chicago Academy of Sciences).

Federally funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Nature Museum Online aims to develop six interactive learning experiences (based on the Museum's six permanent exhibits) to support inquiry-based science education in K-12 schools and for general audiences across the country.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the project is the inclusion--from the very start--of teacher-advisors to help brainstorm, design, test and evaluate the interactives. Last year, year 1 of the two-year grant, the Museum brought in 10 educators from across the country to assist with the development of the first three interactives--now in the testing and evaluation phase and online at .

This year we would like to focus on hearing from and working with local teachers--an especially exciting prospect as we launch in early December our very own Harcourt Teacher Leadership Center at the Nature Museum.

We are looking for up to ten teachers (spanning the three main divisions of K-4, 5-8, 9-12) to help guide Nature Museum Online during year 2.

Before deciding whether you are able to commit to participating, please review the following proposed teacher activities to support the year 2 project:
  • Participating in the all-day kickoff session at the Nature Museum (Nov. 16 2001, 8 hours)
  • Reviewing and sending feedback on our "story board" plans for the three online interactives (January 2002, approx. 3 hours)
  • Testing the online interactives as they are developed (April-May 2002, approx. 3-6 hours)
  • Evaluating the interactives in your classrooms with your students (September-October 2002, at least one class session, minimum)
  • Participating in at least one Webcast relevant to the exhibit developed for your students' age range (Fall 2002, approx. 2 hours, including tech. set-up)
  • Helping complete pre- and post-evaluation materials (Winter 2001 and Fall 2002, approx. 4 hours)
The first of the events to occur will be the kickoff meeting at the Nature Museum on Friday, November 16. The goal for the day is to meet with our new teacher-advisors to help us determine what resources they would like to see in the next three online exhibits to be developed. The day's activities will last from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. A light breakfast and a full lunch will be served, and we also will have some small gifts to thank you for your participation. The event will be held in the new Harcourt Teacher Leadership Center.

Some of the items on the agenda for the day will include:
  • A brief history of the Nature Museum 
  • An introduction to the goals of the Nature Museum Online project and a review of the year 1 interactives
  • Tours of the three exhibits to be developed for next year (Water Lab, Childrens' Gallery, and a third one to be determined)
  • Brainstorming sessions and other data gathering activities to learn from the teachers what works for them in the classroom and what they'd like to see online
This all-day November meeting will serve as the formal kickoff for one full year of working together in what we hope will be useful and enjoyable professional development activities for you.

Although we are unable to pay teachers directly for their participation in this project, we will work hard to ensure that our teacher-advisors are rewarded with rich professional development experiences in the realm of online learning. In addition, because the Nature Museum is a certified vendor for re-certification accreditation, we will be looking at the potential to give you professional development credits for some of the training activities we pursue (e.g., the Webcasting technology sessions).

I will be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have and can be reached at [EMAIL PROTECTED] or 773-549-0606 x.3044.

We hope you will consider joining us for this exciting online learning project.

Thank you for your time.
Steve Bunyak
Online Learning
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

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