The STELLAR Project is designed to provide intensive professional development to cohorts of teachers in four rural districts in Lane County, Oregon: Oakridge, Lowell, Creswell, and South Lane. Participating districts commit to active involvement in the project’s professional development program for a minimum of two years, selecting at least two cohorts of teachers to be involved. Professional Development activities include a training institute, biweekly online training sessions, mentoring, leadership training, reading groups, and a STELLAR-sponsored visit to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Professional development in each district begins with an intensive two-day weekend training institute at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus. During this training teachers receive an integrated and interactive professional development program that prepares them to adopt and use the VTS approach to visual arts instruction, an approach to teaching informational and argument writing that is approved by the National Writing Project, and an introduction to the many digital tools and online resources available for supporting and enhancing classroom implementation.

Critical to the intensive nature of the STELLAR Project’s professional development program are the many options for follow-up training and practice, mentoring, co-teaching, collaborative planning, and sharing. Some of these follow-up opportunities take place onsite in the teacher’s classroom (e.g. observations and feedback by VTS trainers), school (group debriefing sessions), or district (cross school sharing). Most, however, involve teachers across districts and therefore take place in the project’s professional development venue in Second Life after school hours. Regularly scheduled 1.5 hour meetings in Second Life are held every two weeks. For those who are unable to attend, an in-world video recording (machinima) from each session is posted online for their review.

Teachers from each cohort are selected to serve as Teacher Mentors, assuming leadership roles as on-site mentors to district teachers participating in the STELLAR Project, as well as providing online support to teachers from other participating districts. Following each district’s two years of intensive involvement in the project’s professional development program it is anticipated that districts will have sufficient capacity to sustain the program using local resources and expertise from Mentor Teachers.

Below is a 360° image of CATE Island in Second Life.