STEM Grant Goes to NY Project to Embed Programming into Physics

A consortium of organizations has been funded to help ninth-grade science teachers integrate computer programming and computational thinking into their physics classes. The two-year project is expected to tap 21 teachers to write curriculum modules that will be tested with about a thousand students each year.

STEMteachersNYC, which brings STEM teachers together for professional development, will lead a collaboration that also includes the American Modeling Teachers Association, the American Association of Physics Teachers and Bootstrap, an organization that shows teachers how to use algebra as a means for teaching program design skills than can then be translated into other programming languages.

The project will employ a teaching method known as "modeling instruction." Students run authentic laboratory investigations and thereby learn how to construct, test, refine and apply the conceptual models that make up the science content, represent these models in different ways and then share what they have learned with their fellow students, promoting deep learning. According to STEMteachersNYC, nine in 10 teachers who learn the pedagogy of modeling instruction use it for the remainder of their careers.

The award was issued by 100Kin10 during today's White House Science Fair, an almost-annual event. This year the Obama administration invited 130 students from 30 states to come to Washington and share their science projects in the White House.

100Kin10 is a science, technology, engineering and math education network working to train and retain 100,000 "excellent" STEM teachers for K-12 by the year 2021. The $195,000 grant, issued to team leader STEMteachersNYC, was one of 10 awards totaling $1.7 million made by 100Kin10, which sought solutions in this set of grants specifically to address underrepresentation of computer science engineering in preK-12 classrooms in New York State.

Project workshops will take place at Columbia University's Teachers College. When the modules are ready, the project partners will all take a hand in promoting the curriculum through professional development initiatives.

"We are very excited to be chosen for this grant, especially because this project goes to the heart of STEMteachersNYC's core mission of driving student success through cultivating excellence in STEM teaching," said Fernand Brunschwig, president of STEMteachersNYC, in a prepared statement. "By equipping teachers, we can directly help students incorporate computational thinking into their investigations about how the physical world works. This dynamic will result in some very exciting, very deep learning for both teachers and students."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.