From the director
Welcome to the Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education. I hope that you will join us in our effort to improve the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten through college. We are a community of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and educators collaborating with businesses, research institutes, and school districts to serve the STEM needs of the coastal plains of Georgia and beyond. We offer support for developing grant proposals, outreach programs, and research proposals with a focus on interdisciplinary STEM education for rural and diverse populations.
As we approach the holiday season and the end of the Fall 2015 semester I want to wish you all a fantastic finish to 2015. The STEM Institute held its fourth year recruitment effort for Affiliate Faculty in October. We welcome our 96 Affiliate Faculty from all 7 academic colleges to the team: 32 new affiliates joined us this year and 35 renewed for a second three term. For the first time we have all 7 academic colleges as core partners, meaning each college has a STEM Institute Fellow who you can contact to discuss needs and who will be sharing with college Affiliate Faculty opportunities for research, outreach, and funding. The Fellows will each host a College STEM Institute Meeting in the spring, keep an eye out for the date of your college meeting. Contact your college Fellow and get connected.
The Real STEM Project housed in the STEM Institute is focusing on authentic STEM teaching and learning in our 10 partner schools. A recent National Academies of Science report, Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM Programs in Out-of-School Settings, echoes the Real STEM Project focus on engaging students in real-world research and design problems which arise from global grand challenges that play out in the community or region the student lives in. Place-based problem-based teaching provides a higher degree of student intrinsic motivation. Productive STEM programs, whether in or out of school, at the K-12 or college level, should:
- Engage students intellectually, academically, socially and emotionally
- Respond to student’s interests, experiences, and cultural practices
- Connect STEM learning to student’s community and informal (out-of-class) experiences
- Productive programs engage young people intellectually, socially, and emotionally.
- They provide first-hand experiences with phenomena and materials.
- They engage young people in sustained STEM practices.
- They establish a supportive learning community.
- Productive programs respond to young people’s interests, experiences, and cultural
- They position STEM as socially meaningful and culturally relevant.
- They support collaboration, leadership, and ownership of STEM learning.
- They position staff as co-investigators and learners alongside young people.
- Productive programs connect STEM learning in out-of-school, school, home, and other
- They connect learning experiences across settings.
- They leverage community resources and partnerships.
- They actively broker additional STEM learning opportunities.
While the National Academy of Sciences report is reporting on informal out-of-school programs, I believe it has a lot to say about what we should be doing in our formal STEM program classrooms as well.
As the 2014-15 academic year comes to a close I want to thank all of you who have supported the Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEMe) over the past year.
Over the last year, with the assistance of our 6 Institute Fellows and 96 Institute Affiliate Faculty from all 7 academic colleges, we have submitted 17 grants with interdisciplinary teams of faculty, collaborated on 6 funded projects, instituted the second annual STEM Fest at GS which drew over 3,000 participants, hosted STEM Café speakers bringing faculty and community together, partnered with 13 school districts to provide professional development for teachers, hosted a STEM Summit in Savannah to connect GS faculty with national experts to create research teams, hosted a regional Science Olympiad competition, and implemented our first Interdisciplinary STEM FYE course.
The Institute will enter its fourth year in Fall 2015. We have grown over the last year with Kania Greer moving into the Project Development Specialist position, Melissa Rhodes joining us as an Administrative Assistant/Accountant, and our search for a new STEM Outreach Specialist faculty position which will join us in the fall. In addition we have Graduate Assistant Lori Barfield and Graduate Research Assistant Lisa Watson to support Institute efforts.
The i2STEMe is looking forward to working with the GS Institute Fellows, GS Affiliate Faculty and all faculty interested in STEM, School District partners, business/industry partners, and research institute partners to improve STEM in the lower coastal plain of Georgia and beyond. We want to give a special thanks to our business partners who provided support over the past year: Gulfstream, Georgia Power, and Solvay Advanced Polymers. I also want to thank the Fellows and Affiliate Faculty listed below who have been particularly engaged in i2STEMe activities over the past year.
We welcome faculty to work with us over the summer and into the next academic year. There are a lot of excellent grant opportunities available to support your research and outreach programs and future dreams. Some examples are provided below. Please contact us about assistance in working on grants. Have a great summer!
For the first time in 50 years a majority of public school students come from low-income families (Lyndsey Layton analysis of 2013 federal data, 2016). This statistic has profound implications for our nation’s schools, yet low SES status is ignored in high stakes testing comparisons.
Fifty-one percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches in the 2012-13 school year, a proxy for poverty (Southern Education Foundation). A lot of people at the top are doing much better, but the people at the bottom are not doing well at all. Those are the people who have the most children and sent their children to public school (Michael A. Rebell, executive director of Campaign for Educational Equity at Columbia University).
Low SES students start school behind more privileged peers, are less likely to have support at home to succeed, less frequently exposed to enriching activities outside of school, and more likely to drop out. Low SES students are more prevalent in the Southern and Western states. Georgia is in the 60% poverty range. Rebell proposes that schools serving low income populations need higher quality teachers, small class sizes, up-to-date equipment, after-school programs, summer programs, improved parent engagement and early-child services.
Georgia Southern is located in the lower coastal plain of Georgia, a region with high levels of low SES and rural populations. We can serve the needs of our communities through providing after-school and summer programs as part of our STEM Institute Affiliate Faculty promise.
The Horace Mann League and the National Superintendents Roundtable sponsored a study just released called School Performance in Context: The Iceburg Effect . The study examined six dimensions related to student performance in the G-7 nations plus Finland and China: equity, social stress, support for families, support for schools, student outcomes, and system outcomes.
See School Performance in Context: The Iceburg Effect for a summary of key findings related to the poverty issue.
Active learning is a hot topic in undergraduate STEM Education. Active learning engages students in problem-based learning, project-based learning, and place-based education, among other teaching strategies. So is it effective? Freeman, Eddy, McDonough, Smith, Okorafor, Jordt, and Wenderoth (2014) ran a meta-analysis on 225 studies of STEM education courses comparing lecture with active learning. The results indicated that examination scores increased by an average of 6% in active learning sections and that students in traditional lecture courses were 1.5 times more likely to fail. The study supports active learning as the preferred empirically validated teaching practice in STEM classrooms. The i2STEMe is interested in collaborating with STEM Departments at GS that are interested in increasing retention and graduation. Programs such as NSF IUSE provide support for such initiatives. Contact us if you are interested!
Last updated: 12/1/2015