Initiating New Science Partnerships in Rural Education: STEM Graduate Students Bring Current Research into 7th-12th Grade Science Classrooms

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Sarah Radencic1, Kelli Sewell Dawkins2, Brenda Jackson2, Ryan M. Walker1, Darrel Schmitz1, Donna Pierce1, William K. Funderburk3 and Karen McNeal4, (1)Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS, United States, (2)Starkville High School, Starkville, MS, United States, (3)The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Columbus, MS, United States, (4)North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, NC, United States
Initiating New Science Partnerships in Rural Education (INSPIRE), a NSF Graduate K-12 (GK-12) program at Mississippi State University, pairs STEM graduate students with local K-12 teachers to bring new inquiry and technology experiences to the classroom (www.gk12.msstate.edu). The graduate fellows prepare lessons for the students incorporating different facets of their research. The lessons vary in degree of difficulty according to the content covered in the classroom and the grade level of the students. The focus of each lesson is directed toward the individual research of the STEM graduate student using inquiry based designed activities. Scientific instruments that are used in STEM research (e.g. SkyMaster weather stations, GPS, portable SEM, Inclinometer, Soil Moisture Probe, Google Earth, ArcGIS Explorer) are also utilized by K-12 students in the activities developed by the graduate students. Creativity and problem solving skills are sparked by curiosity which leads to the discovery of new information. The graduate students work to enhance their ability to effectively communicate their research to members of society through the creation of research linked classroom activities, enabling the 7-12th grade students to connect basic processes used in STEM research with the required state and national science standards. The graduate students become respected role models for the high school students because of their STEM knowledge base and their passion for their research. Sharing enthusiasm for their chosen STEM field, as well as the application techniques to discover new ideas, the graduate students stimulate the interests of the classroom students and model authentic science process skills while highlighting the relevance of STEM research to K-12 student lives. The measurement of the student attitudes about science is gathered from pre and post interest surveys for the past four years. This partnership allows students, teachers, graduate students, and the public to participate in interactive real-world science scenarios. Success of this partnership is measured by the enhancement of student interest in STEM sciences and learning skills for each child.