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Project VISTA: Building University/K-12 Learning Communities by Developing Materials Science Experiments

  • Martin G. Bakker (a1) (a2), Jim Gleason (a3), Sherry Nichols (a4), Aaron Kuntz (a5), Cheryl Sundberg (a4), Laura Busenlehner (a1), Nitin Chopra (a6) (a2), Victoria Evans (a7), Rosin P. Spencer (a7) and Amy K. Murphy (a8)...

Abstract

One consequence of “high stakes testing” in Tuscaloosa area schools has been exclusion of materials science faculty from any meaningful participation in middle and high school classrooms. Beyond the loss of resources from the classroom that Materials Science faculty and their students represent, this also has negative consequences for faculty wanting to build ties to schools to address NSF’s “broader impact” criteria. A group of STEM and Education faculty at The University of Alabama have been testing a team based approach designed to overcome the systemic constraints that prevent effective STEM/K-12 collaboration. Teams consisting of a high school teacher, a STEM faculty member, and a STEM graduate student have spent three weeks during summer 2010 to identify/develop and implement an inquiry based science experiments. The experiments are being tested on science campers at McWane Science Center prior to being assessed in the teachers’ classrooms during the fall semester. The experiments were chosen by each team and represent significant advances over those currently available in the schools. By setting a problem that no team member is able to solve alone an environment was produced where success requires meaningful collaboration. Preliminary qualitative evaluation indicates deeper understanding of the school environment by the STEM faculty and greater respect for the skills teachers bring to this endeavor. Successes in this pilot program have generated credibility with the local school district, opening the door to scaling up the project, and developing further positive ties. Incorporation of lead teachers from Alabama Science in Motion also allows the experiments developed to be widely disseminated throughout Alabama, as well as providing a mechanism to identify existing experiments to enhance.

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Project VISTA: Building University/K-12 Learning Communities by Developing Materials Science Experiments

  • Martin G. Bakker (a1) (a2), Jim Gleason (a3), Sherry Nichols (a4), Aaron Kuntz (a5), Cheryl Sundberg (a4), Laura Busenlehner (a1), Nitin Chopra (a6) (a2), Victoria Evans (a7), Rosin P. Spencer (a7) and Amy K. Murphy (a8)...

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