Turning Kids and Teachers on to Science
Dr. Brown’s programs are all taking advantage of the development of Spaceport America 40 miles from the NMSU campus. In the fall of 2010, middle school students will have the opportunity to be a part of aeronautic history when a sounding rocket will carry 20 of their experiments into space and return to the ground.
Beyond chronicling U.S. student’s decline in achievement scores in science compared to students in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the globe, recent articles have suggested that “American culture has deep problems with science” that may be causing the decline in interest and performance. These problems include inadequate teacher preparation, student fear of failure at what they see as a difficult subject, and lack of understanding of the connection of science to everyday life.
Dr. Susan Brown, director of the NMSU College of Education’s K-12 STEM Outreach Center, is working to turn this situation around in New Mexico through a number of projects supported by federal and state agencies and by private foundations that serve students and their teachers and families.
SC², Scientifically Connected Communities, previously funded by the New Mexico Public Education Department and currently funded by the New Mexico Higher Education Department, provides K-12 professional development to science teachers. All professional development activities focus on standards and inquiry-based strategies designed to increase achievement and participation in science by all students. In addition to summer institutes that give teachers ideas and resources for hands-on science teaching directly tied to New Mexico science standards, SC² offers support in classrooms throughout the school year, helps to deepen teachers’ content knowledge, and provides a professional network where best practices can be shared. In just two years, SC² has grown from 24 to nearly 200 teachers served. For more information about SC², see http://education.nmsu.edu/sc2/index.html.
The Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy, SEMAA, is housed in the Aerospace Education Laboratory of the College of Engineering. In the lab, middle and high school students can use state-of-the-art technology to work on intriguing science projects, including robotics simulations, construction of moon buggies, and building a model of an underwater space station (using scuba diving equipment to build it under water). This past Spring Break, SEMAA and Academy for Young Scientists (AYS—see below) students traveled to San Antonio, Galveston, and Houston, where they visited the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the actual prototype for their underwater space station, see http://semaa.nmsu.edu/. SEMAA is funded primarily by NASA, with additional funding from 9 private foundations from the region and across the country.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Academy for Young Scientists bring an assortment of out-of-school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities to approximately 400 middle school students and their families. On field trips and after-school programs, AYS students explore topics within the theme “Stone Age to the Space Age,” including archaeology, aerospace and astronomy, engineering, biology, geology, environmental awareness, and the latest technology advances. Students work toward a goal of 150 hours of AYS activities during their 5th, 6th and 7th grades. For more information, visit http://ays.nmsu.edu/index.html.
Dr. Brown’s programs are all taking advantage of the development of Spaceport America 40 miles from the NMSU campus. In the fall of 2010, middle school students will have the opportunity to be a part of aeronautic history when a sounding rocket will carry 20 of their experiments into space and return to the ground. High school and university students have already participated in two launches.
For More Information
NMSU summer science workshops provide support for area teachers
Bringing science to life for students isn’t always an easy task for teachers, which is why New Mexico State University held two events in June designed to help teachers accomplish exactly this.
Middle school students experience multiple fields of science during Spring Institute
More than 40 middle school students received exposure to a multitude of careers in science during a Spring Institute held by two New Mexico State University math and science outreach programs.
NMSU graduate fellows and local teachers to implement computer science in classrooms
A $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will enable New Mexico State University and Las Cruces Public Schools to integrate the problem-solving tools of computer science into local science classrooms.