New grant makes splash in local environmental science community
Feb 14, 2008
Smiling for a photo to celebrate the receipt of a $2.4 million National Science Foundation grant are, from left, UT doctoral student Osvalda Sepulveda-Villet; Caine Kolinski, teacher at Clay High School; UT doctoral student Amanda Haponski; Dr. Carol Stepien, director of the Lake Erie Center; Wanda Penamon, UT3 Program teacher; and Tim Bollin, Toledo Early College High School teacher.
The Great Lakes, including their streams and waterways, represent the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, which thanks to a new $2.4 million National Science Foundation grant will continue to serve as one of The University of Toledo’s great classrooms.
UT’s Lake Erie Center has received funding for five years for a program that is designed to create an educational ripple effect for graduate students, high school teachers, high school students and the community.
The program, “Graduate Teaching Fellows in High School STEM Education: An Environmental Science Learning Community at the Land-Lake Ecosystem Interface,” works like this.
UT environmental science graduate students will be partnered with high school science teachers in the Sylvania, Oregon and Toledo public schools, including the Toledo Early College High School on the University’s Scott Park Campus. The grad students will spend about 15 hours a week in the high school classrooms assisting teachers and mentoring students.
Objectives of the project include generating interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers among minority high school students; giving graduate students and high school teachers a chance to share science knowledge and teaching skills; and developing real solutions to environmental problems along stream ecosystems feeding the Great Lakes.
“A major focus of this project is mentoring,” said Dr. Carol Stepien, director of the Lake Erie Center and principal investigator on the project. “Our graduate students will take their knowledge and love of the environment and hopefully engage these high school students in environmental research.”
Through mentoring the high school students, it’s expected the graduate students will in turn improve their teaching competence by developing their communication, mentoring and team-building skills.
The science teachers also come away with something. Through professional development opportunities and interacting with the grad students, the teachers will gain experience in research methods and recent developments in STEM research knowledge that will help improve their students' test scores. In addition, the project will establish long-lasting professional relationships.
“This project is a way for everyone involved to build an educational network focused on making our lifestyles more interactive with the natural environment,” Stepien said. “Our program embraces the concept of merging scientific research with civic responsibility to benefit the public and the community.”
Co-investigators on the project are Dr. Tom Bridgeman, assistant professor of environmental sciences; Dr. Cyndee Gruden, assistant professor of civil engineering; Dr. Timothy Fisher, professor of environmental sciences; and Dr. Daryl Moorhead, professor of environmental sciences.