NSF AWARDS GRANT FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION COLLABORATION AMONG MCLA, WILLIAMS, AND NORTH ADAMS PUBLIC SCHOOLS9/11/2014
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has announced it received an $810,876 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a collaborative venture with North Adams Public Schools and Williams College.
The four-year project, which runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 18, 2018, allows undergraduates at MCLA and Williams to work with college science professors and teachers in North Adams Public Schools (NAPS) to develop science units based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and to teach curriculum to students in grades K-7.
“This grant is yet another evidence of the strong partnerships that exists between institutions, and I am grateful to NSF for recognizing the value of this proposal as we continue to work with Williams and NAPS to fuel the STEM pipeline,” said Dr. Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs at MCLA.
“Through this program, we will engage science, education and liberal arts students in a year-long experience to develop and teach science lessons in North Adams elementary school classrooms, which will benefit not only the undergraduates, but the teachers and students in our local community,” Joslin said.
North Adams Public Schools Superintendant James Montapare said, “We are grateful to NSF for this opportunity to work on yet another collaborative project, especially as we adjust our curriculum to meet the new standards of the Next Generation Science Standards. We could not ask for better partners than MCLA and Williams College.”
“When we approached MCLA and Williams to partner with us on this project, they were very receptive and supportive as we developed the concept,” said Jean Bacon, Administrator for Teaching and Learning at the North Adams Public Schools, the grant’s principle author. “I’m very excited that this project is not just about developing and implementing new curriculum. It’s a research study that has the potential to inform how we structure science education K-16.”
“This is very exciting for all involved,” said Dr. Sarah Bolton, dean of the college and professor of physics at Williams. “The elementary students will learn to develop and enjoy their scientific imaginations, and the college students, with an eye to their futures, will experience how rewarding it can be to do science with children. Our thanks go to the NSF for recognizing the importance of such work and supporting it.”
This collaborative effort, “Teaching to Learn: Improving Undergraduate Science Education Through Engagement in K-7 Science,” is under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Stroud, assistant professor of science/technology education at MCLA, who is the project’s principal investigator, and co-principal investigators Jennifer Swoap, director of elementary outreach at Williams; Jean Bacon, administrator of teaching and learning at North Adams Public Schools; and Dr.Christopher Himes, STEM program manager and the Evelyn H. and Arlindo Jorge Endowed Chair in the Education Department at MCLA.
“We are very excited to get this grant,” Stroud said. “We’ve got a really dynamic team put together who are energized and dedicated to do some great work over the next four years as we expand on work done by Williams and North Adams Public Schools, and build on the relationship that North Adams Public Schools and MCLA have had for many years.
“This project certainly fits well with the institutional goals of MCLA, as we think about all the new programming we have around STEM and some of the great work we’ve done, including the new science building,” Stroud continued. “All around campus, there’s certainly a great momentum and excitement about STEM. We are filling another niche as we connect college students with the elementary schools, and allow them to learn science through teaching it.”
Swoap said Stroud and Bacon were instrumental in establishing connections among the three communities of educators. “We’re delighted that this collaboration will enable Williams students to work and learn alongside local teachers in district-wide professional development around best practices for elementary science teaching,” she said. “Our student body has great interest in working with elementary children, and this opportunity is a wonderful expansion and outlet for that interest.”
Pairs of undergraduate students will co-teach units with K-7 classroom teachers and the support of college science education professors over the course of the school year.
“It’s a broad, new step into some really great potential for teaching sciences,” according to Himes. “It’s a really unique project because it includes so many people—science and math faculty both at MCLA and Williams, and both groups of undergraduates. It will facilitate interactions between the campuses, and also benefit the local school community of elementary teachers and students.”
As part of the grant, undergraduates and K-7 teachers also will participate in joint professional development to deepen their understanding of both the nature of scientific inquiry and science teaching, and reinforce their connection as a community of learners.
Moreover, the project also seeks to improve the scientific literacy of the general populace through improving the ability of undergraduate participants and their college faculty advisors to communicate scientific information to a lay audience. In addition, it will help increase the pool of potential scientists by increasing the quality of science education within the North Adams school district.
For more information, go to www.mcla.edu.