Students at three High Point schools will be getting more than your average science lessons in the coming year, thanks to a $2.8 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant.
UNCG graduate students in biology, chemistry and geography will share their particular expertise with students from three science magnet schools, teaching them the health, biological and socioeconomic effects of changing land use patterns in the region and educating them on careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM for short).
For example, when the eighth grade studies the hydrosphere a fellow from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry could help teach the properties of water, such as density, polarity and specific heat.
When the subject matter shifts to geologic timescale, major geologic events and climate change, a fellow from geography could take the lead. A fellow from biology could cover cells and nutrient intake. On occasion, all three might be in the classroom to assist with a particularly complex topic or to integrate multiple subject areas.
The National Science Foundation started the Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (abbreviated as GK-12) Program in 1999. UNCG's GK-12 project, the first in the Piedmont Triad, is one of only 23 new projects funded out of 143 proposals submitted in 2009.
Led by Dr. Stanley Faeth, Dr. Catherine Matthews and Dr. John Lepri, the program will pay stipends and $10,000 toward tuition for nine graduate students each year, who will work with several hundred students. The program will involve eight-10 teachers initially, but could grow to include as many as 30.
The GK-12 program is a wonderful opportunity to train graduate students at UNCG to communicate their research to a broad and diverse audience, said Faeth, head of the Department of Biology and the project's lead principal investigator. If a graduate student is able to effectively explain his or her research to a fourth grader and translate that research into a lesson plan for a fourth-grade teacher, then this makes him or her a much better scientist overall.