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Prof Joins $10M STEM Effort by NASA, WGBH

06/22/16

Dr. Nick Stroud, associate professor of technology and science education at MCLA, is part of a $10 million effort, “Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms,” which will develop new tools for teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to students across the country.

Over the next five years, public television station WGBH in Boston will head this NASA-funded project to provide free digital resources for the nation’s youth in Kindergarten through the 12th grade, to be delivered by the PBS LearningMedia educators’ portal.  

As a project advisor, Stroud will oversee plans for videos, interactive projects, data visualizations, lesson plans and student activities. Each resource will contain multimedia content from NASA, and from children’s public television shows that teach STEM concepts.

“Teachers may not see NASA as a resource they have access to,” Stoud explained. “One of the great things this project will do is to provide an easy entry to the kind of work NASA does and bring it to the classroom in a way that is accessible, meaningful and engaging.”

In addition, WGBH will partner with Harvard University’s WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors program, which allows students to turn their computers into virtual telescopes and connect with other telescopes around the world to offer immersive views of the sky. Multimedia links to interactive descriptions and explanations of celestial objects also are included.

However, not all of the teaching content of “Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms” will be space-related.

“As the title of the project suggests, it’s really going to provide an opportunity to bring all of the things NASA does – not just beyond the earth, but on the earth as well,” Stroud said. For example, NASA’s data sources also include climate-related information.

Especially during this first year of the grant, Stroud will provide guidance, structure and vision for what might be accomplished as the project continues. Its purpose, he said, is to create content to excite young students about science education.

Stroud became involved with the project after he was approached by WGBH Principal Investigator Rachel Connelly. It’s not the first time she’s worked with Stroud: they were colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and they worked together to start a small space science museum in New York City.

Stroud is passionate about projects like “Bring the Universe to America’s Classrooms.”

In addition to working at the state level on science standards for Massachusetts, he is the principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded project “Teaching to Learn.”

In a collaborative effort between MCLA, Williams College and North Adams Public Schools, “Teaching to Learn” places pairs of undergraduate students in local classrooms to teach science to elementary school children.

“It’s a really interesting model for having systemic change in science education,” he explained.

While the young student teachers benefit with professional development and learn effective science teaching strategies, the undergraduates have opportunities to figure out ways to explain sometimes complex concepts to younger children, “and have fun doing it,” Stroud said. “I bring that kind of perspective to the work as a project advisor.”

His involvement with “Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms” also benefits MCLA.

“MCLA is a player, not only within the state, but nationally in terms of science education. This project highlights the impact the campus can have more broadly,” Stroud said. “Our small, liberal arts institution can be leveraged in ways that go beyond local or regional impacts.”