Julie Bianchini and Susan Johnson of the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara, along with Jennifer Thorsch from the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, Catherine Gautier from the Department of Geography, and Meredith Murr from the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), have been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) grant of $176,000 to revise, implement, and research three environmentally-focused, pedagogically innovative undergraduate courses. These courses – one in biology, one in engineering, and one in geography – are part of a new Minor in Science and Mathematics Education at UCSB and central to CalTeach, a UC-wide initiative to recruit and better prepare science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduates for careers as secondary science and mathematics teachers.
The grant will allow the group to transform these three courses to highlight four core themes: sustainability and the environment; connections across science, technology, society, and education; evidence-based argumentation in science; and innovative pedagogical strategies effective in K-12 schooling. The courses’ collective purpose is to shape the scientific ideas and pedagogical practices of prospective science teachers – to help create a cadre of undergraduate science students who will bring both holistic and critical thinking to their teacher education programs.
The three revised courses are part of the CalTeach initiative – a partnership between the State of California and the UC System – to improve the teaching of science and mathematics to all students in California’s secondary schools. Over the past three years, CalTeach Santa Barbara has placed hundreds of UCSB undergraduates in 30 area schools, providing over ten thousand hours of classroom support under the supervision of master teachers. CalTeach Santa Barbara has strengthened and established new relationships across departments of education, science, mathematics, and engineering as well. Indeed, the majority of courses in the newly established Minor in Science and Mathematics Education are designed and taught by science, engineering, and mathematics faculty.
Broader impact from this grant money will be ensured by producing science undergraduates with a thorough knowledge of green technology, environmental stewardship, and scientific reasoning, as well as of ways science can be productively used to inform some of our world’s most pressing issues. Participating undergraduates will provide hands-on environmental science education to hundreds of K-12 students by serving as class helpers, docents, and mentors. The proposed project will also serve to strengthen the relationship between science undergraduate education and secondary science teaching: We expect the broad appeal of these environmentally-focused courses to increase the recruitment of science undergraduates into CalTeach and thus help to address the national shortage of science teachers.
Julie Bianchini is an Associate Professor in Science Education in the Gevirtz School and Faculty Director of CalTeach Santa Barbara. Susan Johnson is a Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment in the Gevirtz School and is Program Director for CalTeach Santa Barbara.
[Julie Bianchini and Susan Johnson are available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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