Generations of students in the Marshall County (W.Va.) public schools will benefit from revamped science instruction thanks to a recent commitment of $148,230 to Oglebay Institute (OI) from Chevron North America Exploration and Production Co.

OI will begin a three-year initiative working closely with the Marshall County School System to align the life sciences curriculum for grades 1-8. The program goals include students increasing their understanding of scientific concepts from one year to the next, and to provide teachers with the tools they need to engage students and convey the required material in the classroom.

“Oglebay Institute is grateful to Chevron for making this extraordinary commitment to science education in Marshall County,” said Alice Eastman, director of OI’s Schrader Environmental Education Center. “This generous grant will allow Schrader Center naturalists to work with each and every student in Marshall County, ensuring their success in science.”

In 2011, OI began teaching the intensive seven-week REACH science program in Marshall County fifth grade classrooms. The program is supplemented with teachers’ guides to overcome the lack of science textbooks in the county’s schools. Efforts were expanded in 2013 with assistance from Chevron, which helped fund science programming at OI’s Schrader Environmental Education Center for the county’s third and fourth graders.

This latest grant will enable OI naturalists and Marshall County teachers to work together to design a framework for grades 1-8, with a life science focus. The new curriculum will be interdisciplinary, including math, language arts and social sciences, to make each subject come alive and become relevant to students.

To help teachers implement this new curriculum framework, teacher training will be part of the initiative as well. GrandVue Resort in Moundsville, W.Va., will provide outdoor classroom space for some portions of the program. Third and fourth graders will continue to visit the Schrader Center and OI naturalists will continue providing the REACH program at Marshall County Elementary schools.

“The collaboration between Oglebay Institute and Marshall County Schools has been wonderful,” said Woody Yoder, superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Marshall County Schools. “Science is inherently a highly engaging, hands-on subject and must be taught as such. Not only are current programs well received by teachers and students alike, but also our plans to expand are very exciting. We will establish comprehensive programming with a coordinated curriculum from which students in grades 1-8 will surely benefit. We are creating opportunities that will be viewed as highlights of the year for our students.”

The initiative will begin in the fall of 2015, with the first year including information gathering and teacher training. Curriculum redesign and beta testing will occur during the second year, and rollout of the full program will begin in the fall of 2017.

“Chevron is very pleased to have the opportunity to benefit the students and communities of Marshall County by participating in this initiative with Oglebay Institute, the school system and GrandVue Resort,” said Trip Oliver, Manager of Policy, Government & Public Affairs at Chevron. “With test scores showing positive results of OI’s efforts to date in the county’s schools, we are confident that this expanded initiative will help students enter high school and college well prepared for more advanced science courses. A high school graduating class that includes more scientifically literate members is likely to include more who are college bound, more who are considering science-related careers or advanced studies, and more who understand environmental issues and how these issues affect them and others in their community.”

Eastman continues, “Teachers will emerge with the tools they need to teach complex scientific concepts. Together, we’re going to create a science curriculum that will keep instruction on track from one grade to the next. If this model proves successful, we plan to share the process and learning insights with others at state and national science teachers association conferences.”

This science education initiative is one of numerous programs in the arts and sciences that OI delivers to area schools in the classroom and in OI facilities that include the Schrader Environmental Education Center, the Stifel Fine Arts Center, the Oglebay Institute School of Dance, Towngate Theatre and the Museums of Oglebay Institute. For more information about participating in or supporting OI’s school programs, please call 304-242-4200.