HANOVER, N.H. – August 9, 2019 – Dartmouth College, the Montshire Museum of Science and educators from local middle schools will participate in a five-year project to create new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for students and teachers in rural New Hampshire and Vermont.
The initiative, funded by a $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will implement the educational units, build a STEM teacher network for rural New England, and create a “near-peer” student mentorship program.
Faculty from Dartmouth’s Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Education, and Thayer School of Engineering will join the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, and the Montshire, to work with local teachers and students on the project.
Vicki May, a professor of engineering at Thayer School of Engineering, and Michele Tine, an associate professor of education at Dartmouth will serve as co-investigators on the project. Amanda Skinner, assistant director of outreach and communications at the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, will liaise with school administrators and teachers. Roger Sloboda, a professor of biology at Dartmouth, is the overall project lead.
“This is a great opportunity for Dartmouth to join colleagues across the region in creating new educational opportunities within our local communities,” said Dean Madden, vice provost for research at Dartmouth. “By working with local teachers and students, we hope to share the excitement of scientific discovery and to help foster the next generation of talent in our society.”
The initial phase of the program will involve a close collaboration with middle school teachers from four partner schools within fifty miles of Dartmouth’s campus: Barnet School (Barnet, Vt.); Claremont Middle School (Claremont, N.H.); Indian River Middle School (Canaan, N.H.); and Tunbridge Central School (Tunbridge, Vt.).
One STEM unit will be developed and implemented in the pilot schools for each of the first three years of the program. The program will advance from the sixth grade to the eighth grade over that same time period.
The program will be expanded to include teachers and students in eight additional schools during the fourth and fifth years of the project.
“Focusing on students before eighth grade – a time when students, especially girls, begin to lose interest in STEM topics – can increase their engagement and their interest,” said Sloboda the principal investigator of the program.
“This project assumes that every teacher has the ability to deliver exciting lessons, and that every student can learn and thrive in science, technology, engineering, and math. We anticipate that the program will help to enhance the learning environment for teachers and students alike.”
Teacher shortages can often force educators in rural schools to teach STEM disciplines that are outside of their professional development. This, along with a lack of resources and professional support, can translate into a loss of interest in science at the middle school level, especially with girls who are already statistically more likely to turn away from STEM subject matter.
The community-based project is aimed at strengthening interest in STEM by working with local teachers to develop educational units for students that help make science learning relevant to their daily lives while aligning with state standards. The units will include inquiry-based hands-on activities, engineering design projects, and media resources.
The project will provide teachers with supplies and equipment. A web-based network for science teachers in New England will also be established.
“STEM programs are an invaluable part of building the 21st century workforce,” said Stephen Moss, a curriculum specialist at School Administrative Unit #6 in Claremont, N.H., representing one of the four pilot schools involved in the program. “We look forward to working collaboratively with Dartmouth and the Montshire to help expand the educational opportunities provided by this program.”
The program builds on previous Dartmouth collaborations to enhance local STEM education, including “GK-12,” a program that paired graduate students with local middle school teachers, and “Science Camp,” a program for rural students operated in collaboration with the Montshire Museum of Science.
“Partnering with our community on projects like this supports innovation in science education for rural areas,” said Marcos Stafne, executive director of the Montshire Museum of Science. “When university, school, and science museums work together, everybody benefits from our combined experience, knowledge, and resources.”
The first educational units will be developed in collaboration with local teachers, Dartmouth faculty and Montshire staff at the beginning of the 2019/2020 school season. Those units will be developed to match areas of high need and interest across the middle school curriculum. Once the units are fully developed they will be posted to a project website for use by any school system.
Dartmouth graduate students will assist in the design and delivery of the program units and serve as near-peer mentors for the middle school students.
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Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League and offers the world’s premier liberal arts education, combining its deep commitment to outstanding undergraduate and graduate teaching with distinguished research and scholarship in the arts and sciences and its leading professional schools: the Geisel School of Medicine, the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business.
About Montshire Museum of Science
The Montshire Museum of Science is an interactive science center in Norwich, Vermont, with more than 150 hands-on exhibits relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology, and technology. Outdoors, visitors can explore nature trails and exhibits on wind, water, and sound in David Goudy Science Park. Visiting exhibitions, educational programs, and special events are offered throughout the year.
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
NIGMS is a part of the National Institutes of Health that supports basic research to increase our understanding of biological processes and lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. For more information on the Institute’s research and training programs, visit www.nigms.nih.gov.