UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

$2.8 Million NSF Grant to Boost Local Science Education

A $2.8 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant will allow UNCG graduate students to enrich science lessons for hundreds of students at three High Point schools.

Graduate students in biology, chemistry and geography will work with students and teachers at Montlieu Elementary, Welborn Middle and Andrews High schools to investigate the health, biological and socioeconomic effects of changing land use patterns in the region.

The K-12 students, all attending Guilford County Schools science magnet schools in the same neighborhood, will become engaged in hands-on lessons and will learn about a variety of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM for short). Although the research questions are focused on local and regional changes, the skills are universal.

The National Science Foundation started the Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) Program in 1999. UNCG’s GK-12 project, the first in the Piedmont Triad, is one of only 23 new projects funded out of 143 proposals submitted in 2009.

“A strong foundation in science and math is critical for success in today’s knowledge-based global economy,” said Chancellor Linda P. Brady. “The Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education Program is an excellent example of the efforts underway at UNCG to ensure that students and teachers in our local communities are provided with the skills and hands-on experiences needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

Led by Dr. Stanley Faeth, Dr. Catherine Matthews and Dr. John Lepri, the program will pay stipends and $10,000 toward tuition for nine graduate students each year, who will work with several hundred students. The program will involve eight-10 teachers initially, but could grow to include as many as 30.

“With this grant, UNCG graduate students will be bringing real-life research into our classrooms,” said Debbie Kraszeski, science curriculum specialist for Guilford County Schools. “Together, we will be able to integrate the research with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study, making learning relevant for students.”

Welborn Principal Lori Bolds is also pleased with the opportunity. “We are excited to work with UNCG on this initiative,” Bolds said. “Having a graduate student in the classroom will help our teachers differentiate instruction, as we know not all students learn at the same pace or in the same way.”

The graduate students will share their particular expertise. For example, when the eighth grade studies the hydrosphere a fellow from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry could help teach the properties of water, such as density, polarity and specific heat.

When the subject matter shifts to geologic timescale, major geologic events, and climate change, a fellow from geography could take the lead. A fellow from biology could cover cells and nutrient intake. On occasion, all three might be in the classroom to assist with a particularly complex topic or to integrate multiple subject areas.

“The GK-12 program is a wonderful opportunity to train graduate students at UNCG to communicate their research to a broad and diverse audience,” said Faeth, head of the Department of Biology and the project’s lead principal investigator. “If a graduate student is able to effectively explain his or her research to a fourth grader and translate that research into a lesson plan for a fourth-grade teacher, then this makes him or her a much better scientist overall.”