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Getting Kids (and teachers) Excited About STEM

The ‘Ville Equips STEM teachers

IMG_1921Millersville University is renowned for its ability to transform passionate individuals into passionate educators. Thanks to a generous grant of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), MU can continue to equip future teachers with the skills necessary to succeed in the ever-changing realm of education by evaluating its integrative STEM (iSTEM) teacher preparation program.

“The nation needs more STEM professionals and there is no better way to plant the seed of excitement for STEM than with early grade teachers who are passionate, excited and prepared to teach STEM! This project gives MU the ability to contribute to the national conversation on early STEM education,” says Dr. Nanette Marcum-Dietrich.

On June 7, the NSF approved a proposal titled “Integrative STEM Education for Teachers of Young Students” (iSTEM4ToYS) which was submitted through the combined efforts of Drs. Sharon Brusic, Jennifer Shettel, Janet White and Marcum-Dietrich. Approval means that Millersville University researchers will have the money to meet the needs of the project staff for materials, supplies and other expenses over a three-year period beginning on Aug. 1.

“We are really excited about the potential this grant has to impact early childhood education by better preparing our teacher candidates who will be working with young children,” says Shettel.

IMG_2002 2As the title insinuates, iSTEM4ToYS aims to study the effectiveness of Millersville’s new minor in Integrative STEM Education Methods (ISEM), an option for undergraduates in the Pre-kindergarten to grade 4 (PK-4) teacher preparation program. Just approved last summer, this minor is designed to supply teacher candidates with the training and tools necessary to confidently engage early elementary students in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

While similar explorations are being carried out across the United States, researchers at MU will uniquely target their study on teachers of young students, rather than on those of older children and young adults. This course of action reflects the mindset that motivating students in STEM subjects at a young age is crucial in cultivating the innovators, workers and citizens of future generations.

In order to carry out such a project and reach such a goal, Millersville researchers plan to use surveys and interviews as a means of investigating the components of the iSTEM program. MU will partner with local schools and their PK-4 classrooms in order to gather data.
“The project will investigate selected research-based components of the iSTEM program and has the potential to result in data that can inform other PK-4 teacher preparation programs which want to prepare educators who are equipped with a toolkit to open the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the early elementary students they engage,” says Brusic.

Brusic will head iSTEM4ToYS as the principal investigator with Marcum-Dietrich, Shettel and White as co-principal investigators. A graduate assistant and one or more undergraduate students will also assist the project staff.

Brusic explains, “When teachers are excited and confident, their students will be excited and confident. This project is all about probing what makes teachers excited about, and confident in, iSTEM so that their students will more likely be excited and confident in iSTEM, too. That’s a win-win situation for teaching and learning.”

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DUE-1611652. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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