University Park, Pa. -- Penn State's College of Education has received a three-year, $525,000 grant from the Martinson Family Foundation of Lawrenceville, N.J., to support a project aimed at strengthening teachers' knowledge of science in grades K-8 — a vital step toward encouraging more students to pursue interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"Contemporary perspectives on science education call for K-8 teachers to engage students in meaningful and authentic investigation-based learning experiences aimed at developing scientifically literate citizens and promoting the pursuit of careers in science and engineering fields," according to Carla Zembal-Saul, associate professor of science education, holder of the Kahn Professorship, and project co-director. "However, the necessary reform-based methods require teachers to have a depth of subject-matter knowledge and understanding of scientific discourse and practices that go beyond what typical introductory, lecture-based science courses can provide."
The Martinson Family Foundation grant is supporting the development of specialized content courses in such areas as global climate change, and physical and chemical change, for future teachers seeking certification.
Project staff will be drawn from science and educational faculty and graduate students under the coordination of Zembal-Saul and Annemarie Ward, project co-director and associate director, Center for Science and the Schools.
"Previously, specialized science courses for future K-8 teachers have been documented using print materials," said Zembal-Saul. "Our goal is to create multimedia resources and course materials that can be used in a variety of ways by science educators. For example, lesson plans will be supplemented with video vignettes of class or lab activities and then made more widely available to participants and others through the project blog."
The new courses also will be modified so they can be offered through summer workshops for in-service teachers.
Zembal-Saul and Ward will continually collect research data on the effectiveness of the new courses, assess outcomes, and disseminate their findings at state and national conferences.
"The Martinson Family Foundation selected Penn State's College of Education because of its innovation, outstanding faculty, and proven outreach to Pennsylvania teachers," said John Martinson.
The Martinson Family Foundation, established and led by Martinson, supports educational initiatives that encourage K-12 math and science teachers to advance their knowledge and skills through collaborative programs at nearby colleges and universities.
John Martinson is founder and managing partner of Edison Venture Fund, which has financed and guided 165 information technology businesses, including 44 growth companies in Pennsylvania. He was recently named a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and he holds an M.S. in aeronautics from Purdue University and an MBA from Southern Illinois University.