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Education department receives grant to enhance STEM training

Thursday, May 19, 2011

FREDERICK, Md.—With the help of a major government grant, Hood College faculty members, in collaboration with a local elementary school, will be doing their part this summer to help boost interest and skills in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines among grade school students at a local Frederick County school.

Hood education faculty applied for and received an $80,000 Maryland State Department of Education Science, Technology, Engineering and Math grant to train teachers at Monocacy Elementary School and Hood students pursuing education degrees to develop innovative teaching methods in these subjects. The highly competitive STEM grants are awarded for innovative projects and programs that enhance student learning in these disciplines.

In four-day workshops this summer, Judy Sherman, Ed.D., assistant professor of education and director of the graduate program in curriculum and instruction, and Paula Gordon, professional development schools director, will coordinate training of fourth and fifth grade Monocacy Elementary School teachers in STEM curricula, which they will then implement in the upcoming school year. Training will continue through the entire 30-month initiative so that all teachers and professional support staff will be competent in delivering authentic STEM instruction.

Hood student interns will also gain valuable experience as they, along with their teacher mentors, receive STEM training and then implement the curricula in the classroom.

Observations and recommendations from the Monocacy staff and Hood student interns will be used by the Maryland State Department of Education to create statewide standards for elementary STEM certification or endorsement at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Hood is one of seven colleges in Maryland to receive a STEM grant, which is funded by the federal government’s “Race to the Top” initiative—part of President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Program. The grant rewards states for taking on ambitious changes to improve struggling schools; to close the observed difference in academic performance between students of different genders, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic status; boost graduation rates; and improve the teaching profession.

The STEM grants were established in response to recent studies that identified American students not only as falling behind in science, technology, engineering and mathematics but also as far less interested in those subjects than their international peers. Federal agencies and state governments have allocated millions of dollars to fund initiatives that will enhance learning in these disciplines and give students the confidence to pursue careers in these areas.

Sherman and Gordon, assisted by Ellen Koitz, Ed.D., associate professor of education, and Casey Day-Kells, instructor in reading, wrote the grant.

Sherman and Gordon propose to incorporate this training throughout Hood’s education curricula. Plans call for STEM courses to be developed and piloted during the next two years and implemented across disciplines at the undergraduate and graduate levels.