TOPS of Santa Clara Valley
A Volunteer Organization Dedicated to Science Education
Stephen Mori, Coordinator
Telephone: (805) 453-8893
Please direct comments and questions about this website to:
Joseph A. Castellano, Ph.D.
Telephone: (408) 679-1743
TOPS of Santa Clara Valley is conducted under the auspices of the
IEEE Santa Clara Valley Life Members Affinity Group
Fred Pfost, Chair,
Charles Herget, IEEE Region 6 Life Members Activity Group Coordinator,
TOPS of Santa Clara Valley
Teaching Opportunities for Partners in Science
TOPS is composed of a group of scientists and engineers who use their technical knowledge and experience to support teachers and work with children. For some, it offers the opportunity to leverage their efforts by training other scientists to do the same. Scientists in disciplines other than the physical sciences (e.g. in the life or earth sciences) also participate. TOPS has two main goals:
1. To provide regular science content support in the sciences to middle school teachers who often experience gaps between their preparation as teachers and the science knowledge they need in the classroom.
2. To draw on the large reservoir of retired and other science and technology professionals who have valuable knowledge, experience, and time.
The ultimate benefactors of TOPS are students. It has been documented that the project's mature, well-trained scientists and engineers are helping guide students to learn science concepts and facts as well as the scientific habits of mind and ways of thinking. Also, real world relationships seem to become clearer to the students because of the deep appreciation for relevance that the project's retirees have acquired over the course of long careers. Students also tell evaluators that they are inspired to learn science by the presence of the TOPS volunteers.
Teachers say TOPS retirees help them become more prepared to teach science by being content resources and by modeling what scientists do and how they think. Surveys show that the teachers also feel inspired, develop more confidence as well as understanding, and appreciate the extra pair of skilled hands and highly schooled minds.
TOPS volunteers find their work in the classrooms intellectually stimulating and emotionally rewarding. Roughly 75% return the following year. Of those who don't, about half are unable to do so because of other circumstances (moving, health, other commitments, etc.). The other half, unfortunately, find that they were not utilized properly or were poorly matched with a teacher. TOPS’s volunteer coordinators work very hard to try to rectify such situations by having the retiree work with another teacher or at another school.
Many of the retirees have been recognized by their schools, their communities, and even by their town officials. Numerous articles have been written about them in the local and national press. Some retirees find a whole new life as a Science Resource Agent (SRA) and spend a significant portion of each week building equipment and otherwise preparing for their day in school.
TOPS volunteers are recruited from industry, academia, and professional organizations. They are typically trained for 2 to 3 full days and are then placed with teacher-partners in schools near the volunteers' homes. Some of the most effective volunteers become leaders who train new members of TOPS. TOPS volunteers occasionally meet to discuss and share their experiences. There is also a significant amount of electronic communication among the volunteers for this purpose.
Teacher Recruitment is done with the help of local school districts. TOPS coordinators keep a running list of schools that request volunteers. Some corporations within a region may contribute a small amount of funds to TOPS to help defray the cost of training volunteers and operating the program.
TOPS of Santa Clara Valley is one of many organizations throughout the nation that provide senior scientist volunteers to help teach science in the elementary and middle school grades. For a list of these organizations, please click on the following link to the American Association for the Advancement of Science Senior Scientist page: http://aaas.org/programs/education/SSE/activities/othervolunteer.shtml.