Central Pennsylvania: Connecting STEM research and practices to K-12 environments
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How do we bring university-level research to K-12 classrooms?
If we want to equip today's students to solve tomorrow's problems, we need to equip educators with the tools to spark scientific curiosity. Current reforms in K-12 and post-secondary STEM education ask teachers to adopt the practices of scientists and engineers to teach core disciplinary ideas and crosscutting concepts. However, most science teachers lack opportunities to engage in authentic research experiences.Penn State University's Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) addresses this challenge and helps teachers bring scientific practices to life in their classrooms.
CSATS works with Penn State researchers and their colleagues to develop, implement, assess, and disseminate STEM outreach programs by:
- Collaborating with Penn State researchers and faculty to develop the education components of their research grants
- Creating professional development programs that introduce educators to STEM researchers, who help enhance their curricula to include relevant, meaningful scientific learning experiences for students
- Building partnerships with stakeholders including businesses, libraries, science centers, museums, and others to transform STEM education for the next generation
The Center for Science and the Schools' Commitment
Through this transformative engagement with educators, CSATS has impacted 286 schools across 22 states, bringing meaningful STEM research and experiences to a growing number of students.
Examples and highlights:
- Partnering with Dr. Susan Stewart, associate professor in aerospace engineering, CSATS developed workshops for teachers to incorporate sustainability and renewable energy into their curricula by investigating wind energy — the fastest-growing energy resource in the U.S. The workshops give teachers the tools to enable students to apply difficult concepts such as energy conversion, energy transfer, and electricity generation. The workshop also prepare teachers to lead student teams in developing their own wind turbines for the annual KidWind Challenge, in which 4th-12th grade students compete to build the most efficient, functional, and innovative wind turbine.
- With the Center for Pollinator Research, led by Dr. Christina Grosinger, CSATS promotes teachers’ and students’ understanding of factors that contribute to the decline in pollinator populations. Teachers develop the capacity to incorporate various investigation techniques into their classroom research projects using a place-based approach, helping students understand phenomena and solve problems in their own backyards.
- Through a seven-week, full-time summer research experience, teachers work alongside scientists and engineers to develop a classroom research project that infuses best practices and scientific phenomena. Dr. Sukyoung Lee, professor in meteorology and atmospheric sciences, worked with a rural physics teacher to generate models that investigate relationships between incoming and outgoing radiation on Earth and sea ice cover in the Arctic. Through this in-depth experience, the physics teacher's students had the opportunity to perform authentic scientific research using millions of data points from NASA and professional researchers.