The first cohort of eight FAU graduate students were selected from chemistry, physics, biology, biomedical science and mechanical engineering to work with Lake Worth High School and Atlantic Community High School this year. These graduate students will be paired with high school teachers to incorporate conceptually based, hands-on group activities and laboratory experiments and bring their research experience into the high school chemistry curriculum.
The impetus of the project is to improve science education at the high school level and stimulate students’ interest in potential careers in science. FAU faculty members involved in this project are Dr. Donna Chamely-Wiik, principal investigator, and co-principal investigators, Drs. Jerome Haky, Deborah Louda and Nancy Romance from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.
“Our graduate students will have the opportunity to serve as a resource to teachers as well as role models to students with the hope of increasing interest and understanding of science and the scientific method,” said Chamely-Wiik. “These graduate students who will go on to be future faculty at research and teaching institutions will also improve their communication and presentation skills while enriching the learning experience of high school students.”
Graduate students participate in the program for up to two years and attended a two-week instructional and organizational workshop last month before entering high school classrooms for the first time in August.
“This is a win-win program,” said Fred Barch, science supervisor for the School District of Palm Beach County. “Graduate students will increase their expertise as scientists, and high school teachers will have the opportunity for on-the-job professional development by enhancing their science knowledge and engaging in scientific inquiry. In addition, high school students will experience new approaches to learning chemistry, thereby improving their knowledge and attitudes toward science.”
“The STEM education program provides unique opportunities for the development of our future research and science leaders across the nation,” said Dr. Art Johnson, superintendent of the School District of Palm Beach County. “And for our students, it’s immediate project-based learning which we know is the most effective method.”
The National Science Foundation (NSF) developed the GK-12 program recognizing that, in addition to being competent researchers, STEM graduate students must be able to communicate science and research to a variety of audiences. As the graduate students bring their cutting-edge research and practice into the K-12 classroom, they gain the skills that enable them to explain science to people of all ages, ranging from students to teachers. The graduate students also inspire transformation in the K-12 formal and informal learning environments, and stimulate interest in science and engineering among students and teachers. Through the GK-12 program, institutions of higher education have had an opportunity to make a significant change in STEM graduate and K-12 education programs by creating strong and enduring partnerships.
“The long-term partnership between FAU and our high schools will result in better teachers, better students and better science at all levels,” said Chamely-Wiik. “We are going to create a long term partnership with the Palm Beach County School District and extend outreach to the community.”