Atkins Earns Professional Achievement Honors

The Faculty Recognition and Support Committee has selected Dr. Leslie Atkins for 2011–2012 Professional Achievement Honors. This honor recognizes faculty who have excelled as teacher/scholars during the past three years.  Atkins has earned two significant grants from the National Science Foundation, one as the principal investigator for “Student-Generated Scientific Inquiry” and the other as the co-principal investigator for “Building a Life Science Curriculum for Elementary Teachers.”

Dr. Atkins has become well known for her work on learning science by actually doing science.  She likens traditional science teaching to training soccer players by making them read the rulebook and listen to lectures on strategy.  She argues that athletes are trained predominantly by actually getting out on the field.  While often this field time only involves practice that simulates actual game conditions, it is nonetheless a far more effective method of preparing for the game, than just reading and listening.
Leslie Atkins has pioneered the technique of teaching science by getting the students “out on the field” and really doing science.  She emphasizes scientific debate as central to science learning.  These debates are informed by experiments conducted by her students as well as by their readings and assignments.  It is remarkable and delightful to stop by her classroom filled with future elementary school teachers and see a discussion not unlike a debate at a scientific conference.
Without Dr. Leslie Atkins’ outstanding efforts, the Department of Science Education would not have been able to revitalize science courses for future elementary teachers. Her work has earned the recognition of being a frequent invited speaker and workshop leader at conferences throughout the country.  In addition, she has made conference presentations worldwide. Leslie’s grants have provided the funding not only to provide much needed equipment, but also give her students the opportunity to pursue authentic scientific inquiry and debate. In summary, she is a transformative educational leader with a drive for innovation.