Grant for $1 Million Will Improve Science Education

Grant for $1 Million Will Improve Science Education

May 27, 2010/Southwest Michigan's Second Wave


By:  Kathy Jennings

Prospective science teachers soon will get a chance to work in the laboratory next to scientists and in turn pass what they learn on to their students.


A $1 million grant to Western Michigan University from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will help teachers learn how to translate science into practical experiences for their future students. The four-year award to WMU will focus on identifying and working with high school science teachers who are trained first as scientists and will then learn how to turn their own research experiences into practical tools that can help them convey scientific principals to their students.


"We're out to create scientists who choose the profession of teaching," says Dr. Susan Stapleton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of chemistry and biological sciences at the University.


Beginning this fall, WMU will recruit a group of 15 students who are interested in teaching high school science, chemistry, physics or biology. Those 15 students will spend the summer of 2011 working in a campus research lab, building their own scientific skills and credentials.


During the following academic year, they will take a newly-developed course aimed at helping them translate their laboratory experience into practical tools. In summer 2012, they will use those new teaching tools in a summer science camp WMU offers annually for middle school students.


A new group of students will be recruited in each of the four years of the project, so as many as 60 prospective science teachers will be part of the initiative.


"We hope that these programs will shape the way students look at the world," says Howard Hughes Medical Institute President Robert Tjian, "whether those students ultimately choose to pursue a career in science or not."