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Grant targets math, science teaching

June 14, 2007

An innovative ASU program that helps high school math and science teachers excel in teaching will receive $525,000 from the Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz). The SFAz funding goes largely to stipends that allow teachers to be immersed in cutting-edge research at ASU, and to develop related activities for use in their own classrooms.

The grant is part of SFAz's Student and Teacher Discovery program. SFAz awarded nine grants in this program totaling $3.2 million. ASU is involved in two of the nine projects. All of the projects are designed to advance K-12 education within Arizona science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The ASU Math and Science Teaching Fellows (MSTF) program provides an immersion research experience for Arizona secondary math and science teachers. The SFAz funding will support a seven-week combined summer and school year program that includes specialized training for an exemplar group of high school math and science teaching fellows selected to help build a world-class teacher work force for Arizona schools.

The ASU program is geared for secondary math and science teachers who want to learn the latest science and engineering and get help in translating what they learn into lessons and activities for their students. Teachers chosen as fellows spend five weeks working in the morning with scientists in an ASU research lab. Afternoons are spent with math and science education faculty at ASU's Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (CRESMET), working on designing lessons, practicing new teaching techniques and discussing the best ways to engage students in learning.

“A unique feature of our program is that the teachers' scientific and engineering research experience is accompanied by a specially designed pedagogy and curriculum development graduate course which continues into the school year,” says Robert Culbertson, an associate professor of physics and the director of the MSTF program.

Teachers select a lab from 14 of ASU's most exciting areas of research, from biosciences to telecommunications to sustainability systems. Teachers then work alongside ASU scientists and graduate students. During the school year following the summer program, CRESMET faculty and professional development specialists visit the fellows' schools to mentor their teaching and share information on ASU with students.

The goal of the MSTF project is to begin building for Arizona a cadre of teachers who demonstrate a deepened understanding of the nature of science, a stronger grasp of the content they teach, and improved pedagogical knowledge and skills based on data emerging from advanced education research.

ASU also is involved in a second SFAz-funded project that gives Mesa high school students the chance to do genome research. The $300,000 grant will expand a biomedical and genomic discovery project at Mesa High School's Biotechnology Academy.

Students will use bacterial genomes to identify and test all genes in amino acid biosynthesis, and they will have access to genome databases and electronic journals. They also will be trained in basic genetics and bioinformatics.

The program will operate through partnerships with ASU's Biodesign Institute, ASU's Polytechnic campus and Mesa Community College.

The Student and Teacher Discovery program is the third round of funding by SFAz, which is working to build a world-class science, engineering and medical infrastructure in Arizona by fostering innovative research and education programs.