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Skype a Scientist and Educator? Ask Your Professional Development School Consortium for Some Assistance!
Michelle Francisco, Coralee Smith and Rosemary Arioli-Leibowitz, Buffalo State College

The Buffalo State College (BSC) Professional Development School Consortium, Buffalo, NY, includes 17 school districts with 48 elementary schools. The partner schools can apply for mini-grants from the Center of Excellence in Urban and Rural Education at BSC for “supplies, substitute teacher pay, instructional materials, literature, software, technology, and for support of the research process in the school. In addition to funding, the Consortium provides college support in the form of faculty expertise for research design” (Buffalo State College, 2011, para. 2).

A 2010-2011 funded mini-grant was the Junior Einstein’s Mini Grant for Henry Hudson School, Rochester, NY, written by Rosemary Arioli Leibowitz of BSC and Melissa Heywood of Rochester, NY.

I am a BSC graduate student with a Communication degree. I was unaware of the PDS mini-grant until I began student teaching. I knew that student teaching was collaborative, but I did not realize the potential of the Professional Development School Consortium until student teaching in a gifted sixth-grade classroom. I was to teach a Physical Science unit. I wanted a hands-on, minds-on experience. Luckily, my student teaching school was a member of the BSC Professional Development School Consortium. I asked my supervisor, Rosemary Leibowitz, who suggested collaborating with Dr. Coralee Smith, who had taught both gifted education and science methods. The collaboration began by email and developed using Skype for the up-close and personal aspect of teaching.

Dr. Smith suggested it would be an excellent idea to get my students engaged and involved by using the Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS, 2011) kits and Skype. Dr. Smith provided a GEMS overview with multiple ways to utilize it. The Physical Science unit I was to teach included chromatography in the GEMS Crime Lab Chemistry. The GEMS resource aligns with The New York State Science Standards Physical Science #3: Matter is made up of particles whose properties determine the observable characteristics of matter and its reactivity. The purchase of the materials was possible from the BSC Professional Development School Consortium mini-grant.

I developed an agenda to introduce the first chromatography lesson and have Dr. Smith Skype. I read six different scenarios to students so they could gather evidence about a written note. The students were divided into groups and chromatography stations. The stations had chromatography tests to observe and record different ink pigments. Dr. Smith answered students’ questions and provided scientific explanations using Skype.

With Dr. Smith Skyping, the students became scientists! Through Skype, Dr. Smith provided guidance and positive feedback. The students generated amazing conclusions, based on their data. The hands-on activities allowed students to apply information and relate their chromatography testing in real-time.

The BSC PDS Consortium provides student teachers opportunities to connect with experts. The mini-grants provided funding to purchase the GEMS materials. As a student teacher, I became aware of the importance of collaborative teaching and learning. Using Skype allowed real-time communication for elementary students, BSC college faculty and me. We were able to do something that had not been done before. What a positive experience for all!

Michelle Francisco is a graduate student at Buffalo State College. Coralee Smith is Associate Professor at Buffalo State College; she can be reached at Rosemary Arioli-Leibowitz is a Lecturer at Buffalo State College; she can be reached at

Buffalo State College. (2011). Professional development schools action research. Retrieved from