The food really has been good...(tldr)

It's a long read and I'm fairly confident only one loyal follower will read this in its entirety, but here's the email that was submitted late last night to present the issues we've been having with this camp....

Mme. President,
Greetings from the 2011 Gainesville Camp! We felt that we needed to report to you the current situation at the camp so that you can be fully aware of what is going on as well as we felt if we didn’t start writing this stuff down as we went we would never be able to adequately capture the true atmosphere of the working environment.
FIRST: The positive notes…..
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for paying for us to stay in a hotel! We have had rather challenging couple of days and have needed the opportunity to unwind and relax in a comfortable setting with reliable Internet service. Also the quality and quantity of the food being provided by the University support personnel has been wonderful so far. They decided to also provide lunches for us and the participating teachers (this may not seem as impressive after you read the rest of this report) in addition to providing breakfast snacks. In addition, the people in the Materials Science Department with whom we have worked have been very cordial and the graduate students (especially Jessie and Nigel) have been outstanding with helping us when needed (once they were made aware that we needed help). The lecture room is a nice size with working technology and the lab (room 115) is a bit small (probably could only really accommodate about 14 participants) but located just around two corners on the same floor as the lecture room. Did I mention the food was good?.......

SECOND: Our challenges so far……
Amy, Becky, and I have worked hard to heed the feedback provided by Jim and Margaret (last year’s teachers) and satisfy all of the logistical and procedural requirements of the University (all that were communicated by Tinkerbell to us) and have tried to make sure that you were copied on our email communications. For example, I pressed for the correct procedure to get a rental car for us and Tinkerbell made our reservation with the negotiated provider, Avis, and took care of the requirement to have a special voucher prepared for me so give to the Avis counter so that the University would be billed directly. However, I still had to remind Tinkerbell on June 9th that I had not received that voucher. Tinkerbell had the voucher overnighted to me in CA and I received the voucher the day before I flew to FL for the camp. We have also submitted all paper work prior to arrival at the camp (by a few weeks) as requested by Tinkerbell in order to secure payment of our salary for the week.
• I had requested to Tinkerbell that we meet on Saturday afternoon so that we could look over the past supplies and get a few things organized prior to the arrival of participating teachers on Sunday. This request was denied because we were told that they have always met up with the lead teachers on Sunday prior to the start of the camp and that seemed to work. For the record: THIS DID NOT WORK nor should this practice be continued in the future. If you are going to have a camp that starts on Sunday, the University must make arrangements to have at least a 3 hour work session on Saturday to complete a local shopping list based upon the final inspection of the current stock of chemicals and consumable items. We were not able to get into the building of the camp until 1pm on Sunday afternoon (participants were scheduled to arrive at 3pm). When we arrived, we opened up the lecture room the lab room and proceeded to locate the past supplies. The location where the past supplies had been stored was empty. [A new faculty member had joined the department in Jan. and had taken over the lab where the supplies had been stored. That individual wanted them removed and another professor was asked to remove them. The faculty member who was asked to remove the supplies is on vacation in another state and has also accepted a position at another university for the fall so there didn’t seem like there was a strong motivation to attend to such details.] After a few phone calls the supplies were finally located strewn in various boxes on the floor, on a counter, and randomly placed in a metal storage unit in a lab (room 264) across the hall from the previous location. We finally secured access to the past supplies around 4:30 pm (that was 1 ½ hours AFTER the scheduled start of the camp). Moonblossom informed Tinkerbell to take photos of the condition of the supplies and we assume some feedback will be given to the out-going professor that this type of movement should not happen again (I guess this out-going professor will be strongly encouraged to not to do something like this again at his FUTURE university???? Not sure this will help future ASM camps). FYI. The supplies were labeled as “MSE Teacher Supplies” so if you have groups here in the future they will need to ask for the supplies by this name NOT by “ASM Teacher Camp” supplies.
• Amy had been informed by Tinkerbell that that Moonblossom, the department advising director, was going to give a short presentation on Sunday night as part of the opening meeting. Amy was informed at 2:30pm on Sunday that Marsha was NOT going to present to the group (30 min prior to arrival of participants) because she was going to reschedule to a later day. However, Moonblossom showed up to eat with the group at 5:30pm on Sunday and only interacted briefly with Amy and Bruce but did not talk with any of the participating teachers. Tinkerbell informed us that they usually do the oobleck on the first night. This news came as a surprise to us since we had been told that the participants only got a brief intro to University procedures etc, had a meal together, and then checked into the dorms. We were still unaware of the location of the past supplies and had not be able to do ANY local shopping because Tinkerbell had to be with one of us at WalMart to make the purchase on the department p-chard, but Tinkerbell couldn’t get away because we were all looking for the missing supplies (are you starting to see the pattern?).
• Since we discovered that we were expected to actually DO something with the participating teachers on Sunday night, we located the supply of Raku clay and thought we could also do the cement pucks activity. Upon further investigation the raku clay was too dry to use that night (we needed to re-hydrate the clay overnight) as well as the fact one of the teachers didn’t arrive until about 4:30 so prior to that we only had 2 participants.
• Now for the big shocker….. As just mentioned we only have 3 participants at this camp. One participant was encouraged by Tinkerbell to come down to the Gainesville camp (but this teacher lives in Atlanta), one participant has done the year 1 camp 3 times prior to this year (this is his 4th time at a year 1 camp and he says he is coming to the year 2 camp –name is Westminster , and the last participant came from Australia [after further questioning though he had flown in two days earlier to spend time with friends in San Francisco so if ASM had known such information, the foundation could have re-directed him to another camp, even if you needed to pay a re-booking fee for him). We are not trying to be conspiracy theorists but it seemed to us if ASM had been adequately in the loop on the registration list, the foundation could have easily accommodated the three participants through other camps and not needed to run this camp.
• After the meal, Daylily, another member of the Department support staff who was assigned to help us during the week, took the participants to the dorm to sign in. The 3 of us and Tinkerbell went up to the location of the past supplies and decided to use that room as our staging area and began to pull out supplies for Monday’s agenda. We worked to make the sodium acetate demo solutions as well as the copper (II) sulfate solutions and finally left the University at about 9pm.
Monday (things continue to be interesting)
• Monday morning a grad student by the name of Nigel was located and, we later found out, had helped out previous camps (there was a large group sigh of relief upon this discovery of personnel). When we got to talking to Nigel, he informed Becky that he had not been called until 11pm on Sunday night and asked to help us out. Nigel had no idea that we were coming this week even though I had asked Tinkerbell on more than one occasion (both verbal phone communications and written email communications) to try to ask if any graduate students were available because we had been informed by past master teachers that these students were a huge help to the program. This gets even better. Guess who called Nigel to ask him to help? It was the professor who is out of state on vacation and not returning to the university in the fall (this request we assume was initiated as a result of Tinkerbell calling the professor to try to find the missing moved camp supplies). Regardless of how he came to help us….there continues to be much rejoicing at his presence among us!
• Another day in the life of the Gainesville camp…. At one time during the day there began to be a gathering of high school and graduate students outside of our lecture room. Come to find out, this other department faculty member had followed department procedures and reserved our lecture room on the on-line room scheduling site. Our program was NOWHERE on the master schedule. This faculty member graciously worked to find another location so the six of us could continue on our journey through the curriculum in the same room.
• We had provided Tinkerbell with a list of our local shopping items on Sunday night before we left the building. However, at about 12:30 pm on Monday I had to inquire of Tinkerbell if she had gotten the local supplies on the list. She told me to give her the final list and she would go. A bit confused, I went back to the lecture room to find the list right where we had given it to her on Sunday night. I handed it again to Tinkerbell and said that I really needed the balloons for the afternoon session to do an activity on bonding. She called to the campus book store and was unable to find a close location to purchase balloons. She also noticed that we had ziplock bags on the list and proceeded to go over to the department supply closet and see how many bags they had. I was finally able to convince her to just purchase everything on the list and if we didn’t need all of the bags, they could use them up over time for normal department use. We finally got our list of local supplies about 3pm on Monday afternoon (I had already gone through the bonding demo and we used tennis balls for the activity which kind of worked -- we made due).
• Also to note: we have NO tours confirmed of the department (we were able to get a lead through the efforts of Nigel. Amy is going to follow up on this tomorrow), we have NO field trip planned, we have NO ASM contact at all, we have NO faculty contact or greeting other than Moonblossom who never ended up talking to the participants yet and who is the department advisor and not an active teaching/research member.
• On a positive note…. I realized once I got here that I had worked with Dr. Appamattix Stonwall in the MSE department through the POGIL national meeting two years ago and he had helped me get some resources for teaching materials science. I’ve contacted him and he is scheduled to share with the group on Thursday morning. I also am scheduled to have lunch with him on Thurs. to talk about his POGIL work as well as I am planning to probe his take on the teacher camp at UofF. Come to find out, Appamattix is the Assistant Department Chair so he is in a position of leadership for the department.
So What Now….
We are all doing well so don’t worry about us (did I mention we are REALLY thankful for being able to unwind in a comfortable hotel room?). Becky and I are learning a lot about the pacing and preparation for the week’s activities and feel this experience will prepare us well for our next camp. We honestly are feeling very concerned about the magnitude of financial expense the foundation is incurring for this learning experience for us. As mentioned earlier we feel that the needs of these teachers could have been adequately met with an earlier intervention and much less money spent. We all talked about the items shared above and I somehow got elected to put them down in writing to you but I believe I have captured the main ideas we had discussed tonight at dinner.
My suggestion would be for you and Chuck to discuss how you would like to use us while we are here on site. Obviously we are going to deliver the curriculum to our 3 participants (who we feel are extremely engaged with the material and are having a very positive learning experience) but I thought you might want to have one, two, or all three of us try to get a quick meeting with the chair of the department to ask a question like, “We have enjoyed working with the teachers this week but we were wondering how you (as the department) envision this teachers’ camp fitting into your vision for outreach to the K-12 community?” I think we would just want to hear from their perspective and then if they asked, provide feedback like, “Well, we didn’t get a strong sense that this program with a priority or even an interest to the department. In other locations we are greeted by at least one faculty member as well as some representative of leadership in the university as well as having a “go to” faculty member who wants to see more materials science introduced at the middle and high school level. We didn’t feel such an interest here. We are not leadership with the ASM Foundation but we would like to hear from your department’s perspective what could be done to better fit into your outreach priorities and improve the camp in the future.” I think this location struggles from (and we have some personal thoughts on why this might be) marginalizing the perspective of the leading teachers and thereby not acknowledging that this camp has some severe challenges which need to be addressed.

Bottom line….. we think you at the foundation need to take a long look at how you want to proceed with this site in the future. I think this department is a strategic partner due to its prominence in the national materials science community but you may need to re-think what the best way to partner with them looks like. The department here might need some help re-casting a vision for impacting the K-12 education community.

I know this communication is rather long but we felt we wanted you to be fully informed of the situation so you can make some immediate decisions on how you want to use us while we are here.


PHSChemGuy said...

That's a frickin' mess.

cmorin said...

Read it. The benefit of being an unemployed college grad... you have time to read EVERYTHING.

Why do science teachers have such weird names? TInkerbell? Moonblossom? Come on! I thought Princeton had some winners.

Grace said...

"The following is based on actual events. Only the names, locations and events have been changed."

Bdubba said...