While the need for more experts and innovators in STEM fields is critical to the success of our nation and is increasing (National Science Board, 2012), the number of students pursuing and completing degrees in these fields is decreasing (National Academies of Science, 2011; National Science Board, 2012). Implementation of programs that will transform education and enhance the pipeline from grade school to university to the workforce is imperative (National Research Council, 2011). The Prime the Pipeline Project (P<sup>3</sup>): Putting Knowledge to Work proposed a solution to this problem by designing, implementing, and evaluating the<em> scientific village</em> strategy for (1) increasing student interest in and success with the study of mathematics and science through engagement with teachers (as learners and collaborators) in the solution of challenging problems that mirror those faced by STEM professionals and that use workplace technologies, and (2) updating teachers in STEM fields.
“For effective K–12 STEM instruction to become the norm, schools and districts must be transformed.” Read this brief to learn more about curriculum and instructional methods that engage students in the learning process.
To stay strongly aligned with college credit policies and to prepare AP students for college and subsequent STEM careers, the AP Program recently redesigned several science courses. The purpose of such a redesign is to help students increase depth of understanding of essential concepts and develop capacity to use critical skills by limiting breadth of content covered. Additionally, the purpose of the AP Science redesign included the goal of preparing students for success in college-level courses within disciplines and stimulating them to consider careers in those disciplines.
The NSF-funded MSP institute is a project that supports outstanding middle school teachers in their quest to become mathematics specialists. Each teacher participates in coursework that leads to a master’s degree and certification as a mathematics specialist. Following the certification, each of the participants will serve as a specialist within their home school districts, coaching other teachers. The research questions addressed by the project are (1) Can we prepare mathematics specialists for service in grades 6–8 by adapting and refining training and induction programs that have served well in K–5 schools? (2) Will this institute produce intellectual leaders in Virginia? (3) Can these specialists impact student learning in grades 6–8 to enhance student success in the middle school curriculum, including algebra? The core partners of this project are Norfolk State University, University of Virginia, and school systems from Arlington County, Buena Vista City, Caroline County, Culpeper County, Fairfax County, Hanover County, Henrico County, Norfolk City, Portsmouth City, Richmond City, Scott County, and Westmoreland County.
The Institute for Chemistry Literacy through Computational Science (ICLCS) is a National Science Foundation-funded MSP program designed to increase the chemistry literacy and chemistry-related pedagogical skills of rural Illinois high school teachers through the use of authentic and near-authentic computational simulation resources. As a true partnership with K-12 education, the ICLCS is an example of how higher education and K-12 schools can work together to improve student success. For the past 5 years, we have partnered with schools to provide their Chemistry teachers with intensive, multi-year summer Institutes built upon existing, successful curricula and methods, enhanced with state-of-the-art science research data and applications for the 21st Century. During the academic year 124 teachers from 119 rural districts are connected through an online Professional Learning Environment (PLE) to support their growth as teachers and leaders.
There is a growing demand for engineering education in the pre-college classroom, particularly in ways that work with other aspects of curricula. Integrating Engineering and Literacy (IEL) projects use children’s texts as contexts for students’ initiation and early progress in practices of engineering. In particular, we focus on students’ (1) recognizing and scoping problems, with attention to the “client’s” situation, (2) conceptualizing and planning possible solutions, and (3) fabricating, testing, and revising their ideas. Time limitations generally do not permit students to dive deeply into all three respects, but we intend that any particular experience involves the first and second or the second and third, with opportunities for all three over the year. What is important throughout is that students get to come up with their own ideas, and one indication of success is the diversity of ideas the class considers—such as regarding clients’ needs, ideas for solutions, or possibilities for improving on prototypes.
The 2012 Science Standards will place an emphasis on data collection and explanations. This session will provide a free iPhone app that supports grades 4–12 students in data collection and explanation building about biodiversity in schoolyards in the Great Lakes region. The session will provide inquiry activities and Web resources that guide students to construct explanations to questions such as, What habitats are in my schoolyard? and Which zone in the schoolyard is the most diverse?
IQWST, as the “next generation” of middle school curricula, was designed to enable teachers with diverse knowledge and experiences to teach science effectively to students with a variety of backgrounds and strengths. IQWST materials align with national standards, are rooted in principles of project-based scientific inquiry, focus on science’s “big ideas,” and employ research-based practices to promote students’ science content and science literacy learning. This coordinated sixth- to eighth-grade curriculum sequences one unit each year in physics, earth science, biology, and chemistry instruction in a manner that builds upon students’ prior knowledge and everyday experiences to build deep understanding of core science ideas from unit to unit both within and across the middle school years. Students learn complex scientific ideas by engaging in practices that include working with models, constructing scientific explanations, engaging in argumentation and debate, analyzing data gathered either from students’ own investigations or represented in complex datasets, and presenting ideas to peers. The interdisciplinary team of science teachers, scientists, literacy experts, curriculum designers, and university researchers works collaboratively with teachers to ensure that the materials provide appropriate and sufficient support for teachers and their students in urban, suburban, and rural school contexts.
Our research focuses on university/public school partnerships to develop effective mathematics programs for all students. Through National Science Foundation funding, New Mexico State University (NMSU) has engaged in the Gadsden Mathematics Initiative (GMI), Scaling up Mathematics Achievement (SUMA) and currently the Leadership Institute for Teachers. Through our research efforts, we better understand what it takes to build viable sustainable learning systems and how to support English language learners in mathematics achievement.
The NRC report, Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics recommends that schools and districts provide professional development for instructional leaders that will support their efforts to create school conditions conducive to STEM learning. The Lenses on Learning professional development materials support K–12 principals, teacher leaders, and district leaders to develop their instructional leadership for mathematics by focusing on issues of equity, assessment, data use, and support of high-quality mathematics instruction in schools.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grants # 0822241, 1449550, 1650648, and 1743807. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.