STEM Education Center receives $8M National Science Foundation grant

The STEM Education Center has received an $8 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, to partner with 200 Twin Cities metro area teachers to increase science and math learning through engineering for 15,000 students in fourth through eighth grades.

Listen to the KFAI Radio interview with Tamara Moore. Broadcast date: Oct. 4, 2012

The center, with the largest grant it has ever received, will lead an engineering, design-based approach to teacher professional development that will help teachers design curricular units for science topic areas within the Minnesota State Academic Science Standards.

The project will include summer professional development and curriculum writing workshops, paired with a cognitive and content coaching model, to allow teachers to design curricular units focused on science concepts, meaningful data analysis and measurement. Each unit will go through an extensive design research cycle to ensure its quality and then will be submitted to, an online peer-reviewed digital library, for use across the United States and beyond.

"The project has the potential to change the way partner schools implement STEM education, as well as be a model for other schools globally," says Tamara Moore, project principal investigator and co-director of the STEM Education Center.

"The work of the project is critical to the work of the STEM Education Center," says Moore. "The ideas that have come together for this project represent a holistic view of the best work that we as a team have done so far. Our past research on STEM integration curricular and teacher development is the heart of this project."

Project partners include the University's Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power and Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, the St. Paul Public Schools, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District, the South Washington County Schools, the Metropolitan Cooperative Service Unit, and the Grants and Research Office of Intermediate Districts 287 and 916.

The school districts involved cover a diverse student population. In St. Paul, for example, many students come from immigrant or refugee families and 45 percent live in homes where English is not the first language. Teachers in the project who work with high-need students will not only be implementing the curriculum modules, but also documenting the learning outcomes of underrepresented populations. The project research findings are aimed to help practitioners, administrators and policymakers discover the best ways to improve student achievement and develop student interest in STEM careers.

The grant is among the largest awarded through the Mathematics and Science Partnership program by the Division of Undergraduate Education of the National Science Foundation, which is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense...." With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion, it is the funding source for about 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities.

The project name is EngrTEAMS: Engineering to Transform the Education of Analysis, Measurement, and Science. Co-project investigators are Marshall Davis, St. Paul Public Schools; Paul Imbertson, Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power; Selcen Guzey, STEM Education Center research scientist; and Gillian Roehrig, STEM Education Center associate professor.

Part of the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), the STEM Education Center includes researchers from five U of M colleges, with core faculty from CEHD's Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power is part of the College of Science and Engineering at the University. The Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement is part of CEHD.