The employment demands in STEM fields grew twice as fast as employment in non-STEM fields in the last decade, making it a matter of national importance to educate the next generation about science, engineering and the scientific process. The need to educate students about STEM is particularly pronounced in low-income, rural communities where: i) students may perceive that STEM learning has little relevance to their lives; ii) there are little, if any, STEM-related resources and infrastructure available at their schools or in their immediate areas; and iii) STEM teachers, usually one per school, often teach out of their area expertise, and lack a network from which they can learn and with which they can share experiences. Through the proposed project, middle school teachers in low-income, rural communities will partner with Dartmouth faculty and graduate students and professional science educators at the Montshire Museum of Science to develop sustainable STEM curricular units for their schools. These crosscutting units will include a series of hands-on, investigative, active learning, and standards-aligned lessons based in part on engineering design principles that may be used annually for the betterment of student learning. Once developed and tested in a classroom setting in our four pilot schools, the units will be made available to other partner schools in NH and VT and finally to any school wishing to adopt them. In addition, A STEM rural educator network, through which crosscutting units may be disseminated and teachers may share and support each other, will be created to enhance the teachers’ ability to network, seek advice, share information, etc.
Educating students from an early age about science and the scientific process, and maintaining their exposure to scientific thought and analysis, is crucial for their long-term understanding of science and the world around them. Loss of interest by students not only toward careers in STEM, but also learning STEM is a national problem, begins in the middle school years, and is much more acute in low-income rural communities, where there are little, if any, resources and teachers have very few options for professional development and networking. To enhance rural science education, this proposal will provide 6th – 8th grade teachers in low-income rural communities the opportunity to collaborate with Dartmouth project faculty and science education experts from the Montshire Museum of Science to co-develop a series of sustainable, Next Generation Science Standards-aligned, hands-on, investigative crosscutting curricular units that they can use for the betterment of their students’ learning. When tested and working well, these units will be make available to any school that has an interest in them.
Project website, teacher wiki, meeting attendance/posters, and local farmer’s markets (for dissemination to community members).
STEM teachers in middle school grades 6-8.
STEM educational units, varying in content by grade level.