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Middle School STEM Gets $12 Million NSF Infusion

Middle schools in Northern California will be the beneficiaries of a $12 million infusion in STEM education and may serve as a model for a national program designed to encourage underserved students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math in higher education and in their careers.

Through an $11.96 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program, researchers at California State University, East Bay will work with the Alameda County Office of Education, along with several other partners, to create and implement the San Francisco Bay-Integrated Middle School Science Project, which will target middle schools serving large populations of students from low-income families and students from traditionally underrepresented ethnic groups, including schools in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.

As part of the program, CSUEB will provide faculty-developed STEM content and will integrate technology-delivered, real-time data provided by a range of government agencies, including the United States Geological Survey, NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.

"This is all in the public domain, and can help in making science current, interesting and relevant to the students," said project lead Jeffery Seitz, professor and chair of the CSUEB's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, who will also supply earth and environmental sciences content to be used in the middle schools. "Much of the information the students will be exposed to will help them track hurricanes, the weather, and earthquakes in real time."

Seitz will be joined by several other faculty members, who will develop content in their areas of expertise focusing on specific middle school curriculum requirements, including Caron Inouye, who will develop biological sciences content; Danika LeDuc, who will focus on chemistry and biochemistry; and Jason Singley, whose content contribution will be in the area of physics. According to the university, the resources developed as part of the project will be made available to education organizations nationwide and within the California State University system.

The project will also address teacher preparation. Michele Korb of CSUEB's Department of Teacher Education will focus on teacher training and support.

"Teachers are really pressed to meet all the state standards and have students succeed on the state tests," Korb said in a statement released this week. "We want them to discover that learning includes exploring meaningful ways of inquiry-based science as a way to meet standards and succeed on state exams."

Some 400 teachers, as well as administrators and other program participants, will be affected by the program over the course of the five-year grant, CSUEB indicated.

All told, some 68,000 students will be reached by the program, according to information released by CSUEB Monday. As of this writing, some participating districts have yet to be finalized, but so far middle schools in Hayward Unified School District, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, San Leandro Unified School District, San Lorenzo Unified School District, and West Contra Costa County Unified School District will participate.

"This grant represents one more in a series of successful partnerships between the Alameda County Office of Education and CSUEB," said Sheila Jordan, Alameda County superintendent of schools, also in a statement released Monday. "We share a deep commitment to making quality science teaching and learning for all students an expectation and a reality both in school and in afterschool programs."

For the project, the CSUEB researchers will also work with the California Academy of Sciences, California Space Education and Workforce Institute, the California State University Office of the Chancellor, Chabot Space and Science Center, Exploratorium, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Tech Museum.

The five-year, $11.96 million grant will cover program development, implementation, and assessment.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .