History of the National Hands-on Science Institute

A number of people have asked about origin of the National Hands-on Science Institute (NHOSI). The old website (www.nhosi.com) detailed much of the history of the Institute up to 2003, but the website was never updated after 2003 when NHOSI became Science in the Rockies. Dr. Jim Giulianelli was a great friend who taught me the value of creating teacher training programs that really worked. Much has happened to hands-on science training programs for teachers over the years, and I'm honored to have learned from an incredible science mentor.

About the Institute… In 1990, Dr. Jim Giulianelli, Professor of Chemistry at Regis University, and Dr. Geri Anderson, Professor of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, shared a common goal for science education in Colorado: To provide elementary and middle school teachers with hands-on science training and to give elementary students the opportunity to explore the excitement of conducting experiments in a laboratory setting. It was early in 1990 when Jim contacted ICE to talk about using the Fun with Chemistry curriculum at Regis University (incidentally, Jim did his post-doctoral work at UWM and this helped open the door of communication with Glen Dirreen).

With permission from ICE, Jim and Geri revised the ICE curriculum to meet their specific needs and created RICE, the Regis Institute of Chemical Education. The focus of the week-long summer training centered around the development of inquiry-based activities for elementary and middle school teachers. In the morning sessions, teachers were introduced to classroom science activities and strategies for incorporating a hands-on approach into their daily teaching routine. Then, teachers were trained to be group leaders for the afternoon Hands-on Science Camp for Kids for which children entering grades 4 to 6 were registered.

Under this model, teachers not only learned about science activities but actually tested out their presentation techniques as they conducted the experiments with children in the afternoon. ICE was interested in this component of the camp because few other institutions in the country were combining this unique teacher training model with a summer camp for children. The end result was that teachers returned to the classroom with tried and tested activities that could be immediately integrated into their present science curriculum. By practicing with children in our controlled setting, much of the fear of teaching new science concepts was circumvented. Over the years, this teacher training model has been so effective that satellite programs have been implemented by teacher participants throughout the country.

Steve Spangler joined the team in 1991 as a curriculum consultant and took a position with the Institute as a co-director in 1992. Steve is well known as an author and designer of science learning tools for some of the biggest names in the education industry. His charismatic style and high energy landed him a contract with NBC television as their "science guy" with a Mr. Wizard style of engaging his audience. Steve serves as a national ambassador for the Institute, recruiting teachers from coast to coast.

Jim and Steve had an amazing chemistry between them that truly inspired teachers to make science education a priority in their classrooms. The focus of the Institute changed in 1995 with a complete redevelopment of the curriculum based on the present needs of elementary teachers. The Institute was renamed the National Hands-on Science Institute (NHOSI) and the focus was solely based on fulfilling the needs and requirements of elementary educators throughout the country.

NHOSI suffered an incredible lost in July of 1995 with the death of Jim Giulianelli. Most people remember Jim not for his research work in physical chemistry or his published solar pond projects, but as an educator who was dedicated to getting people turned on to science. His enthusiasm for learning was contagious. In Jim's absence, Steve refocused the staff's efforts on continuing to offer teachers quality workshops, inspiring children to want to learn more about science, and expanding the opportunities that are available to our past teacher participants through future workshops, guest speakers, science showcases, and our annual gathering of graduates.

Soon after Jim's death, his son, Derek Giulianelli, made a commitment to never allow his father's passion for education disappear. Derek made the decision to enter the teaching profession and is currently a 3rd grade teacher at Willow Creek Elementary in Centennial, Colorado. Derek returns to the Institute each year as a visiting instructor and source of inspiration for the staff and workshop participants.

NHOSI continued to offer summer workshops from 1996 through 2001 at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Doug Hodous, a dynamic chemistry teacher from Littleton, Colorado, joined the staff in 1996 as an instructor. His 31 years of classroom experience combined with his incredible sense of humor and dedication to teacher training made Doug a perfect addition to the team. The "Doug and Steve" science shows have become a staple of the Institute and continue to get more crazy each year.

Over the years, NHOSI has received grants from the Annenberg Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Amoco, NREL, the Hach Foundation, the Honda Foundation, and many others who are credited on the list of sponsors.

Today, more than 840 teachers have graduated from the National Hands-on Science Institute. Front Range Community College hosted NHOSI in 2003 under the leadership of Dr. Geri Anderson (yes, the same Geri Anderson who help found the Institute in 1990). Geri and the dedicated team at Front Range Community College worked closely with Steve Spangler to obtain funding from a number of wonderful sponsors. Under Geri's leadership, NHOSI received the most financial support in its history and was able to fulfill the training needs of 96 teachers in summer of 2003.

3 replies
  1. scott hogan
    scott hogan says:

    How can I find out about the national hands-on summer institute for this summer 2009? I am a math teacher at a 9-12th grade charter school in Phoenix, AZ and believe in hands on learning.


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